The defensive midfielder enjoyed more minutes than any other Villa player during pre-season.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s Premier League opener against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium, Sherwood offered an assessment of his squad’s preparations for the new campaign and reserved special praise for the understated midfielder.
“We’re gradually improving,” he said. “We’ve had to spend the money from Christian [Benteke] and Fabian [Delph] as wisely as possible and it’s my job now to gel these guys as quickly as possible.
“Idrissa Gueye is emerging as a top player but I have to give a mention to Ashley Westwood. If anyone wants to get into his spot in midfield, they’re going to have a very hard time.”
|Premier League||Season||Goals||Assists||Total Key Passes||Total Passes GAME||Passing Accuracy||Total Tackles GAME||Interceptions GAME||Touches GAME||Appearances||Mins Played|
Westwood, 25, joined Villa from childhood club Crewe Alexandra in August 2012 for around £2 million and has since made 102 total appearances for the club, while recording three goals and 10 assists.
While he has received few headlines during his time at Villa Park, his consistent performances prompted former manager Paul Lambert to tip him for an England call-up last season, while Sherwood has also compared his no-nonsense approach to that of Manchester United’s Michael Carrick in the past.
After starting the final seven games of the 2014-15 campaign in a holding midfield role, the ex-Crewe skipper looks set to be a core part of the Villa line-up going into this term, having seen 450 minutes of action during pre-season - the most in the squad and 30 more than his nearest rival, Scott Sinclair.
He will likely face strong competition from the tough-tackling Carlos Sanchez for playing time moving forward but, given Sherwood’s comments, it seems as though he has the starting spot in front of the back four nailed down for now.