Aston Villa's Ashley Westwood already impressed by new midfield teammates

Aston Villa

The 25-year-old has lined up alongside new boys Idrissa Gueye and Jordan Veretout in the first two Premier League games of the season.

Aston Villa’s Ashley Westwood has told AVTV how new midfield partners Idrissa Gueye and Jordan Veretout have already made a fantastic impression on him just two games into the new season.

Gueye, 25, joined Villa from Lille last month for around £9 million, having played 176 times for the French side over the past five campaigns and recorded a career-best four goals and three assists last term.

Likened to Chelsea’s Ramires, the Senegal international was linked with the likes of Marseille and Southampton earlier this summer [h/t Daily Mail] but it was Villa in the end who managed to win the race to his in-demand signature.

Veretout, meanwhile, also experienced a breakout 2014-15 season in Ligue 1, racking up seven goals and seven assists in 36 appearances to help Nantes to a 14th-place finish.

Aged 22, his promising performances did not go unnoticed across the Atlantic, and the likes of Liverpool, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur were all named as potential suitors [h/t Presse Ocean] before Tim Sherwood convinced him to make a £7 million switch to the Midlands instead.

Both labelled among the French top-flight’s most exciting talents, the pair have since started Villa’s first two games of the season alongside Westwood in the centre of the park and, while their lack of Premier League experience has been noticeable at times, there have also been clear signs of promising things to come.

Westwood himself has been impressed with their performances in both the 1-0 win at Bournemouth and 1-0 home defeat to Manchester United, telling AVTV: “The lads around me are flying. They’ve come in and are biting to get into the team, so long may that continue.

“Iddy’s been brilliant. Against Manchester United, he was full of energy, and Jordan’s really composed on the ball too. He can score goals and hopefully he will show that on Saturday [at Crystal Palace].

“They’re picking up the language and are a good set of lads who want to do well, so that can only be good for the team.”

  AssistsTotal Key PassesTotal PassesPassing AccuracyTotal TacklesTackles AccuracyBall RecoveriesDispossessedAppearancesMins Played
Ashley Westwood 1 4 102 84% 4 100% 14 1 2 180
Idrissa Gueye 0 0 106 83% 11 82% 12 3 2 180
Jordan Veretout 0 1 76 86% 4 100% 9 0 2 149

At the same time, Westwood is also focusing on becoming a more important figure in Sherwood’s line-up after committing his future to the club until 2020 last week.

The 25-year-old has made 104 total appearances for Villa since arriving from boyhood club Crewe Alexandra in August 2012 for around £900,000 but he has received little fanfare during that time.

Nevertheless, the former Crewe skipper was one of ex-manager Paul Lambert’s most reliable performers and has continued to be a first-choice starter since the arrival of Sherwood, who has likened his no-nonsense approach to that of Manchester United’s Michael Carrick.

His new boss has even tipped him to earn an England call-up this season after rewarding him with a new long-term deal, while also challenging him to become the team’s main orchestrator – a role the midfield anchorman is more than relishing taking on.

“That’s my game,” added Westwood. “I want to get on the ball, dictate the play, control the game and speed things up. I’ve adapted my game and done a lot of work over the summer. I want to be fitter and stronger and I’m running more now.

“The gaffer wants me to do more and believe in myself and that’s what I plan to do now. He’s a midfielder. He’s won the Premier League so I’ve got his experience now. He’s always talking to me.

“Ray [Wilkins] has been brilliant as well. He’s really helping me demand the ball like the gaffer wants. They’ve both been excellent for me and hopefully that can improve my game.”

He has certainly made a solid start to the season, setting up Rudy Gestede's winner in the 1-0 opening day victory at Bournemouth, and, with the defensive side of his game also coming on in leaps and bounds of late, talk of a first international call-up might not be far-fetched.

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