Following his recent contract extension, Eion Smith takes a look at young Aston Villa midfielder Ashley Westwood and explains why he is underrated…
Ashley Westwood is not a man who craves the limelight. He was the heartbeat of the Crewe side that won promotion to League 1 in 2012 but he was not the star of the show. He was one of the supporting cast to the Nick Powell show which everyone up and down the country raved about. Both men earned moves to the Premier League so which one do you think has done better for himself so far? It is, of course, Westwood, solid in a shaky Aston Villa side last season but given little praise outside of Villa. Here is why he should be given far more praise than he gets…
CAREER SO FAR
Westwood began his career in the famed Crewe Alexandra academy and broke into the first team at the age of just 18. He really established himself as a regular in the Crewe side in League 2 and played 36 league games and was voted Crewe’s player of the season in 2009-10. He was an ever-present the following season before being an integral part of the promotion side in 2012. He was appointed captain that summer at just 22 years old but only played 5 times with the armband before joining Aston Villa for a fee believed to be around £2 million and was a regular last season in the Premier League, missing just 8 games.
Westwood is a player in the mould of Manchester United and England star Michael Carrick which is actually who he compared himself to when he joined Villa (“I see myself as a Michael Carrick-type of player”) and you can see why. His philosophy is to get the ball and give to it to someone else. He is not the player that pulls of 15 stepovers but the player who allows those types of players to do those stepovers. Westwood has the ability to dictate the tempo of a game with his passing which made a difference towards the tail end of the season for Villa in their fight against relegation. Villa didn’t win any of the games that Westwood missed and lost 5 of those 8 games. If that doesn’t tell you a lot about Ashley Westwood, then I don’t know what will.
Westwood models himself on Michael Carrick and, like Carrick, can struggle at times defensively. This is mainly due to his size (cue cries of derision). While players like Messi, Xavi etc. have proven that size is not the be all and end all, it does help most of the time in defensive situations. Bigger more physical midfielders are able to brush past him and, at 5 feet 9 inches, he isn’t exactly going to win every header. Another issue that he has is his tendency to, at times, perhaps overplay in dangerous areas. Whenever I saw Villa last season, at some point they attempted one too many passes at the back and when the ball went into Westwood, he would either take one too many touches or play a dangerous pass. This, obviously, will be ironed out as he progresses but can be a real problem for Villa.
When you say Ashley Westwood to people who aren’t Villa fans, I imagine you won’t be showered with glowing comments about his great footballing ability etc. This, I feel, is sad because not only has Ashley Westwood proved he is a great footballer but he has done so with competition from experienced Premier League and international players like Barry Bannan, Charles N’Zogbia, Stephen Ireland and Karim El Ahmadi. And that is why Ashley Westwood, in my opinion, is underrated.
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