Why absence of key Villa man was big blow for Emery as he nears return

Unai Emery has had to deal with injury setbacks over the past fortnight, but Aston Villa will hope to have a key figure in Jacob Ramsey back this weekend.

After our draw with Wolves on Wednesday night, we switch our attention to FA Cup duty on Sunday as we host Stevenage in the third round.

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Given Emery himself insisted at his unveiling press conference that he wants to win a trophy during his time as Villa boss, there is little doubt that he will take the competition very seriously – starting this weekend – and will put out a strong XI to reflect that.

One player we hope will play some part is Ramsey, with the 21-year-old missing the last three Premier League games due to a hamstring injury that he suffered during the World Cup break.

“He is so close. He’s starting to try and be with us this week. I don’t know exactly if he can take some minutes against Wolverhampton or next week in the FA Cup. I don’t know,” Emery told reporters on Sunday. It’s hoped the Villa youngster will be available to get some minutes this weekend, and his return can’t come soon enough given how important he was in the Spanish tactician’s first three games in charge.

Ramsey has pivotal role in Emery’s Villa

Looking back to Emery’s first game in charge, Ramsey bagged a goal and an assist in our 3-1 win over Man Utd. He added an assist against the same opposition in our League Cup encounter just days later, while he played 70 minutes in our win over Brighton.

The numbers alone illustrate his importance in the side, and how he has adapted to Emery’s style and instructions quickly. Ramsey has displayed a goal threat throughout his young career, but he hasn’t been able to do it consistently, and so it was certainly encouraging to see him start so well under the new Villa boss.

Beyond those numbers though, his work ethic and energy out of possession are going to be key attributes moving forward, while his ability to make penetrating runs, with or without the ball, into the opposition half and final third are vital to the way we want to play.

His movement either offers an option for our midfield and creative players to move us up the pitch, or it creates space for others to exploit. When he shows intent with his direct running at defences and pacy ball carrying, it creates openings for his teammates. All of that combined, makes us a more dynamic attacking unit.

The decision to play Matty Cash in a more advanced role on the right side against Wolves didn’t work out. And with John McGinn also now sidelined by injury, Emery could certainly do with a fitness boost from Ramsey who played in that role – or similar – in the first two games under the Spaniard.

There are players in this Villa squad who are going to significantly benefit and flourish under Emery, and there is a feeling, particularly having seen how much we’ve missed him in the last three games, that Ramsey is going to be one of them. He fits the mould of an Emery player in terms of offering attributes that gel with his style of play and philosophy, and so getting Ramsey back this weekend will be a huge lift for all concerned.