After much discussion around him at the start of the season, Tyrone Mings has emphatically re-established himself in the heart of the Aston Villa defence.
Ahead of his first full season in charge, Villa boss Steven Gerrard opted to stamp his mark on the squad through not only new signings, but also by appointing his own captain as John McGinn took the armband.
Further, there was no place for Mings in the Villa starting XI at Bournemouth on the opening day of the Premier League campaign, and so doubts arose regarding the 29-year-old’s future not only in the side, but at the club too.
While unfortunate injury news opened up a path for him back into the line-up after Diego Carlos suffered a long-term setback, Mings hasn’t looked back since returning to the Villa XI and has made a strong case to keep his spot for the foreseeable future.
Defensively imposing Mings crucial, distribution still a concern
In our recent win over Southampton prior to the international break, Mings won all 12 of his duels, four of which were aerial, made five interceptions and had a passing accuracy of 82%.
His physical presence, his imposing stature both on the ground and in the air are fundamental to a backline lacking in those departments, and having been reunited with his long-time centre-half partner Ezri Konsa, the pair have combined well to ensure we’ve conceded just one goal in the last two games.
The extent of the talk around Mings was arguably unnecessary and unwarranted, as although there are evidently areas of his game that he can still improve as he has previously struggled with a habit of making untimely and costly errors, he has largely been a reliable figure in the Villa defence when involved.
An aspect of his play that undoubtedly must still improve is his distribution, as his hurried long balls forward are often met with groans from the Villa Park faithful. Ultimately though that comes down to a team issue to a degree too given his lack of options when trying to play it out from the back, with his only out-ball often an under pressure pass to Lucas Digne which sees the move break down anyway.
However, his primary job in the Villa side is to bring solidity and stability to the defence and he’s certainly done that as we’ve started to pick up positive results and build a foundation on which we can continue to climb the standings and make something of this season.
Mings has his critics, many of whom won’t ever be satisfied as they seemingly have an issue with his game and the manner in which he carries himself at times, but from a Villa perspective, he has done nothing but lead by example, play to the best of his ability with commitment and desire, responded to adversity and showcased his quality when needed.
Like many of the players in the current team, he needs to keep progressing and show even more quality if we want to compete at a higher level. For now though, he’s a steadying and commanding presence in the Villa backline and he’ll have a vital role to play in the coming weeks and months as we evolve beyond this ‘back to basics’ approach that Gerrard has adopted to get results in the short-term.
There will come a time when we try again with his desired philosophy and style of play, and while we’ve seen that lead to an imbalance and lack of cohesion in the side previously which makes us more vulnerable defensively, Mings will undoubtedly need to step up and help prevent us from falling back into unwanted territory both through his leadership and defensive qualities.