Arriving from Crystal Palace for around £4 million, the 32-year-old Australian midfielder brings a wealth of experience to Roberto Di Matteo’s side after captaining the Eagles over the previous four seasons and will look to provide a tough-tackling and industrious presence in the centre of the park.
He will not be available for selection until his English Football League and FA registration is complete, which is subject to the issuance of the relevant UK visa and immigration documents, but it seems a foregone conclusion that the Socceroos skipper will be a first-choice and invaluable starter once his paperwork is approved.
The dilemma Di Matteo now faces, though, is who he drops to accommodate his sixth summer signing. Fellow new boy Aaron Tshibola and the long-serving Ashley Westwood have been his favoured central midfield pairing over the last two games after Gary Gardner flattered to deceive in the defeats to Sheffield Wednesday and Luton Town respectively, and both players have largely impressed in helping the club record a 3-0 win over Rotherham United and 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town.
It is possible that the Italian could try to fit all three into the line-up, but with Ross McCormack most effective when playing in the hole behind Rudy Gestede rather than out wide or as a lone front man, it seems far more likely that he will opt to stick with the current 4-2-3-1 formation for the time being.
|2016-17 Premier League/Championship||Team||Key Passes||Total Passes||Passing Accuracy||Total Tackles||Duels Won||Duel Success||Interceptions||Ball Recoveries||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Aaron Tshibola||Aston Villa||5||86||79%||9||16||57.14%||4||14||3||196|
|Mile Jedinak||C. Palace||2||68||71%||6||13||68.42%||1||4||1||90|
|Ashley Westwood||Aston Villa||2||128||86%||9||12||75%||6||24||3||270|
As a largely polarising player among the claret and blue faithful, the majority of fans would probably argue that Westwood should be the one to make way. The 26-year-old’s quietly efficient playing style and commendable work-rate has won him some admirers since he arrived from Crewe Alexandra in 2012, but with little production in the final third to show for his efforts, it is not hard to understand why so many see him as expendable.
His ability to link up play and maintain possession in tight spots certainly should not be undervalued – nor should his tenacious effort – but his critics would contend that he is simply not incisive enough going forward and too lightweight to play in a double pivot.
Tshibola, meanwhile, offers obvious upside compared to the more experienced Westwood, but he also remains somewhat rough around the edges at this point in his young career. Standing at 6ft 3in, the 21-year-old summer signing from Reading is blessed with a physical skill set that allows him to both thrive defensively and drive things forward, but his display against Luton certainly showed that his passing and decision-making could stand to improve.
His performances over the last two games were much more encouraging, but given that Di Matteo opted to start Gardner ahead of him on the opening day, it would not be a surprise if the Italian decides to go with the stability of Westwood for now.
Regardless of who ultimately lines up alongside Jedinak, though, the middle of Villa’s line-up certainly seems to be in a healthy state. With Gardner now fourth-choice and the promising Jordan Lyden waiting in the wings, Di Matteo has an impressive amount of depth at his disposal and should be able to sanction the expected departure of Jordan Veretout without any real concerns.
With the previous arrivals of Tommy Elphick, James Chester and McCormack, the new regime has quickly built a strong spine of leaders who not only know what it takes to escape the Championship but should also ensure that the likes of Jack Grealish, Andre Green and Tshibola have all the guidance needed to fulfil their potential.