Aston Villa caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald offers explanation for Jordan Veretout's slow start to life in England

The French midfielder has failed to nail down a regular starting spot since his summer move from Nantes.

Aston Villa caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald believes injuries could be to blame for Jordan Veretout’s slow start to life in English football.

MacDonald, who took temporary charge of the club last Sunday following Tim Sherwood’s sacking, has hailed the French midfielder’s passing and vision but thinks “little niggles” have hampered his progress since his £8 million summer move from Nantes.

Speaking about the 22-year-old ahead of Monday night’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur, the development coach told the club’s official website: “Jordan is a wonderful passer of the ball but he keeps picking up little niggles. It's not bad enough he can't play or train but I think that might be affecting him a bit.

"He also has a young family - his wife has just had a baby. He started off wonderfully and had a little dip, but watching him in training these last few days, I think he is coming back again.

"He will get better, and he is looking to impose himself in training games. Now he has to do that over a period of time. If he does that, he will be a very, very good player."

Veretout enjoyed a breakout 2014-15 season at Nantes in a playmaking role, recording a career-high seven goals and seven assists in 36 Ligue 1 games to establish himself as one of French football's top prospects, while also attracting reported interest from the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur [h/t L'Equipe].

Compared to Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, Villa eventually won the race to his signature in July but the former Under-21 international has so far struggled to hold down a regular place in the side, making five starts and two goalless substitute appearances.

The former Nantes product also failed to make the bench for the last two Premier League games against Chelsea and Swansea City, respectively, while Wednesday night’s 2-1 Capital One Cup fourth-round defeat at Southampton saw him restricted to the role of an unused substitute in MacDonald’s first game in charge.

 Premier League GoalsAssistsTotal ShotsKey PassesTotal PassesPassing AccuracyTotal DribblesSuccessful DribblesTouchesDispossessedAppearancesMins Played
Jordan Veretout 0 0 3 4 175 87% 7 2 221 0 5 277

Nevertheless, he has shown some clear flashes of potential when called upon, having been arguably Villa’s man of the match in the 1-0 derby win over Birmingham City in September, and his interim boss now wants to see him put in those kinds of performances on a more regular basis.

"I want to see him creating more chances with his passing,” MacDonald added to "It's not necessarily about being further up the pitch. Glenn Hoddle didn't have to run up and down the pitch. But he was the most wonderful passer this country had in a long, long time.

"It's not about being a holding midfielder or an attacking midfielder - Jordan needs to be a midfielder who gets on the ball more than anybody else in the team."

Veretout’s first opportunity to do that could come on Monday night at Tottenham, and given MacDonald’s words of encouragement, it would not be a surprise to see him return to the starting XI for the first time in almost a month.

Looking further forward, with former Lyon manager Remi Garde also heavily tipped to succeed Sherwood as Villa boss [h/t Telegraph], the ex-Arsenal midfielder could be just the right man to get the best out of his fellow Frenchman and the other summer signings from Ligue 1.

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch