Why Emery faces big challenge to fill key Villa void after setback

With Boubacar Kamara set for a spell on the sidelines, Aston Villa boss Unai Emery faces a major challenge to fill the void he leaves behind in our midfield.

According to The Athletic, Kamara is expected to be sidelined for at least a month after suffering an ankle injury in our win over Crystal Palace last weekend, and so Emery must now find a solution to successfully deal with his absence.

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It’s certainly easier said than done given the Frenchman’s influence on our play in both phases of the game.

His tactical awareness, positioning and tenacity from a defensive perspective coupled with his technical quality, composure and passing ability in possession have made him a key cog in our approach and style of play, and while he has made mistakes along the way, it’s clear that his intelligence and understanding on the pitch have made him a fundamental figure for Emery.

Kamara has an 89.3% passing completion rate so far this season in the Premier League, he’s won 63.4% of the defensive duels he has been involved in and has made 88 interceptions along with 28 clearances. On average, the French international gets 57 touches per game, 0.9 interceptions and 2.5 tackles.

Beyond the numbers though, he makes it look effortless at times with his reading of the game and knowing where to position himself to be efficient, and those are key attributes that are arguably going to be the hardest to replace.

Further, the partnership he has created and developed with Douglas Luiz in the heart of our midfield has been crucial, and so not only do we need to replace and replicate what he contributes as an individual, but we need to find a way to maintain the balance that we’ve had in midfield to allow Luiz to continue to play with freedom to dictate and control the game.

Ultimately, we’re a tougher side to break down and a more cohesive unit in possession in terms of playing with a rhythm and direction when Kamara is on the pitch. Take his quality away, and we have a real headache as we look to try and extend our current winning streak and make it three consecutive clean sheets when we face West Ham on Sunday.

Emery has options at his disposal, but it will be a difficult decision for the Spaniard to determine who will be the best choice to deputise for Kamara.

The obvious choice is Leander Dendoncker in his more natural role, should he be available this weekend after missing out last time out due to personal reasons. The Belgian is perhaps the likely solution, but question marks remain over his mobility and concentration over 90 minutes, as he is likely to struggle to offer the same level of quality in both phases.

Calum Chambers came on for Kamara against Palace, and perhaps if we simply want a defensive shield to protect the backline, he could be an option. That said, there are the same concerns as with Dendoncker in terms of his movement and his distribution, and so again, there is concern that it could backfire.

In turn, as much of a shame it would be to shackle him and play him in a deeper midfield role again just as he is finding his form on the right side and enjoying getting forward into dangerous positions to make an important impact, is John McGinn the safest and most effective solution?

It’s perhaps the closest we’ll get to replicating Kamara’s influence, and while we’re expected to be without him for the next five games at least, it’s hoped that we are very much in a position to compete when he returns and that there is still plenty to play for this season as we look to push up the standings and break into the top 10 at the very least.

Boubacar Kamara heat map
Kamara heat map in Premier League this season

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