Manager Tim Sherwood is said to be opening talks with the Manchester United loanee over a permanent deal, while also preparing to axe his fellow midfielder, but would he be backing the wrong horse?
Midfielder Ashley Westwood could be deputising for the suspended Carlos Sanchez in Sunday afternoon’s FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool but it might well be one of his last appearances in an Aston Villa shirt.
With no goals and just one assist this season, the Daily Mirror reported earlier this week that manager Tim Sherwood doesn’t believe the former Crewe Alexandra captain is creative enough for his favoured 4-4-2 formation and could even look to offload him in the summer.
It would mark a remarkable reversal for Westwood, who had been one of former boss Paul Lambert’s most trusted servants after arriving from Crewe in August 2012, making 95 total appearances and earning support for an England call-up.
Tasked with fewer defensive responsibilities over the first half of this season with the introduction of Sanchez, he looked to be proving one of the club’s better performers amid their dismal run of two wins in 21 league games, which makes his current plight all the more puzzling.
Westwood’s situation also stands in stark contrast to that of Manchester United-owned Tom Cleverley, who has received widespread plaudits for his resurgence since Sherwood’s appointment.
Arriving on a season-long loan deal with the hope of reviving his stagnating career, the England international was so poor during Lambert’s tenure that the then-boss was even moved to refute suggestions that he was being forced to pick him due to a clause in the transfer agreement.
However, he seems to have found his feet again in recent weeks, starting over Westwood in a two-man central midfield alongside new skipper Fabian Delph, and, with his United deal expiring in the summer, the likes of the Telegraph have reported that Sherwood is poised to open talks over a permanent move.
That said, is Cleverley really that much more of an attacking threat than his positional rival? No matter what Sherwood might think, the statistics would suggest not, even since Lambert's departure.
|2014-15 Premier League||Goals||Assists||Total Key Passes||Total Key Passes MINS||Passing Accuracy||Fwd Pass MINS||% Passes Are Forward||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Tom Cleverley||Under Lambert||0||0||18||90.83||87%||6.84||26%||20||1,635|
|Tom Cleverley||Under Sherwood||0||0||5||90.6||84%||8.24||24%||6||453|
Neither has produced much in the goal or assist department but Westwood is in fact the far more positive option, creating more chances-per-minute and recording a higher percentage of forward passes.
More surprising, though, is the fact that Cleverley's creative numbers have actually declined in some areas since Sherwood's arrival and, while his overall performances might have improved over his past six appearances, he is certainly not providing more of an attacking presence.
It makes Sherwood's reported beliefs look all the more baffling on the surface and leads one to believe that the Villa boss could well be backing the wrong horse when it comes to his supposed summer transfer plans.
Both aged 25, Cleverley is said to be attracting strong interest from the likes of Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United, per Sky Sports, and it would likely take an inflated wage package to keep him at Villa Park for the long-term.
His lesser-heralded teammate, meanwhile, has continued to prove himself a valuable top-flight contributor at a cheap price and, even if with the club were to strike a permanent deal with his fellow midfielder, it would still seem like a grave mistake to give up on him at this stage of his career.
With winter arrival Carles Gil already looking like he's in the doghouse, much to the chagrin of fans, the claret and blue faithful should hope that Westwood doesn't end up getting the same treatment.