Ashley Westwood: Aston Villa's quiet star shows his worth against West Ham

The 25-year-old midfielder put in another understated performance in the 1-0 win over the Hammers to help Villa move closer towards safety.

While Ashley Westwood has not received as many plaudits as some of his Aston Villa teammates in the past few weeks, Saturday’s 1-0 win over West Ham United provided further evidence of how crucial he’s been to the club’s recent impressive performances.

As fellow midfielders Fabian Delph, Jack Grealish and goal hero Tom Cleverley all stole the headlines for their attacking exploits, Westwood once again played an understated role towards three crucial points, providing a sturdy base in the centre of the park.

Holding things down in the front of the back four, the 25-year-old performed his job to a tee to ensure that the visitors had few opportunities to exploit Villa’s attack-minded approach, keeping things ticking over his passing and positioning in no-nonsense fashion.

Over the course of the 90 minutes at Villa Park, the former Crewe Alexandra man recorded two tackles, three clearances, two interceptions, completed 86 per cent of his 57 passes, recovered the ball four times and was dispossessed just once.

  Total TackleTotal ClearanceInterceptionTotal PassPassing AccuracyTouchesBall RecoveryDispossessedMins Played
Ashley Westwood 2 3 2 57 86% 70 4 1 90

It wasn't a run-out which will catch the eye of casual observers but for four straight games now Westwood has been arguably just as important to Villa's success as the likes of Delph or Cleverley, having returned from a hamstring strain to carve out a vital role for himself in Sherwood's side.

Just three weeks ago, the Mirror claimed that his time at the club could be coming to an end due to the new manager's frustration with his lack of creativity, but a subsequently excellent showing while deputising for the suspended Carlos Sanchez in the 2-1 FA Cup win over Liverpool went a long way towards demonstrating his value, in spite of a record of three goals in 99 total appearances.

While proving one of former boss Paul Lambert's most reliable servants since arriving from Crewe in August 2012, Westwood has continued to suffer from somewhat of an identity crisis during the past three seasons, with doubts persisting over whether he can cope as a true holding midfielder.

Colombia international Sanchez was signed in the summer as a result, but eight months later and Villa's No. 15 is keeping him out of the side and proving that he is more than capable of thriving in the role the £4.7 million World Cup star was earmarked for.

Make no mistake - Westwood isn't Nemanja Matic but, having previously compared himself to Michael Carrick, there's every reason to believe that he can be the claret and blue's own version of the Manchester United veteran.

As Sherwood told AVTV ahead of the West Ham encounter: "He's doing a great job. He had that hamstring injury but he's come back from that and fitted in really well.

"He's just no-nonsense in getting on with his job - and does a very good one."

Now part of an English midfield trio at Villa Park, if Westwood can continue his current form into next season then, with Delph currently entrenched in Roy Hodgson's side and Tom Cleverley pushing for a recall, we could well be seeing all three turning out for the Three Lions before long.

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