John McGinn’s Ugly Aston Villa Position and the State of Points Over Performance

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Southampton and the International Break

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After another mini ‘pre-season’ for Steven Gerrard with the majority of his Villa squad, after a necessary result against Southampton, it’s time for some Good, Bad and Ugly.

The Good

It wasn’t the most exciting game of football, but everyone can stop with their hot takes on Aston Villa’s match against Southampton.

Villa and Gerrard needed a win, Villa and Gerrard got a win and a clean sheet to throw into the mix.

I don’t remember Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United fans complaining when they were racking up functional wins. It seems to be a uniquely Villa thing – or maybe a uniquely social media thing – to only accept wins if it is the pinnacle of footballing perfection.

Take the three points and see what happens next.

This was a Southampton team, that played both Manchester United and Chelsea off the pitch. For Aston Villa to make them look this poor, something must have gone right.

For those in need of entertainment, the Aston Villa Women’s team provided it against Manchester City. Two goals up, 3-2 behind, then coming back to win. It was a dream result for the ladies’ team.

They then followed it up with a comfortable two-goal win away at Leicester.

Hopefully, this start to the league provides a springboard to generate more interest and eyes on games.

After the Lioness’ Euro success, it would be perfect timing to ride the crest of the wave and advance the Villa Women’s team.

Villan of the Week – Tyrone Mings

After a hard night’s work against Erling Haaland, Mings was far less troubled by Southampton. He won every duel on the ground and in the air and was back to his best.

In a week where the press have been falling over themselves to defend Harry Maguire’s inclusion in the England squad despite not being able to get on the pitch for Manchester United, Mings has been an afterthought.

A regular for his club, faultless for England, suggestions welcome as to why he’s not getting the unwavering support of Maguire.

The Bad

Injuries, injuries and more injuries…

Diego Carlos, Boubacar Kamara and now Lucas Digne are on the shelf for a period of time, just when Villa’s October was shaping up to be pivotal for the season.

Three freak injuries, to three starters (four when you include Matty Cash), is bad luck for the players themselves, but not terminal for Aston Villa. Without these options, Steven Gerrard and the coaching staff may have a moment of clarity.

With no fan able to agree on the best eleven, let alone the manager, the removal of some options could help Aston Villa stumble upon a pragmatic, needs-must formation.

Augustinsson, Young, Dendoncker, Bednarek and the green shoots of recovery in the Mings – Konsa centre-back partnership, mean Aston Villa aren’t at the one-legged James Chester level of squad they were in at the end of 2018.

The pieces are there, now let’s hope Gerrard can find the formation to get results.

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The Ugly

As sure as night follows day, John McGinn, scores for Scotland.

A trademark use of his ample backside, before an accurate finish into the corner, led to all Villa fans saying the same thing. For once this isn’t a clickbait line, they all did say the same thing.


It isn’t rocket science, but it’s an ugly situation for McGinn himself.

For Scotland, he has the complete freedom of the opposition half. One minute he’s left wing, then behind the striker, then he is the striker himself before popping up on the right wing to cross for Che Adams to somehow miss.

He’s afforded the kind of freedom that only Jack Grealish recently had in a Villa shirt.

To trace where it has gone wrong for McGinn, you only have to look back to the high-profile loan signing of Ross Barkley.

When Barkley came in, it meant McGinn went more into the ‘engine room’ of Villa, while his more celebrated teammate provided the creative foil for Grealish.

When it worked, it was beautiful, the three-goal demolition of Arsenal at the Emirates, being the peak. When it didn’t, you began to see the same McGinn issues we have today.

Poor positioning, over-committal, and the tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Through no fault of his own, McGinn may have missed his window with Villa. The time to strike was when Grealish departed for Manchester City.

This is when John McGinn should have been moved up the pitch. It was foolish to replace Grealish in the aggregate, as Christian Purslow said, when that’s not where the issues were.

If McGinn had been moved up to the left of Watkins and the Grealish money used to strengthen the midfield, we may have been looking at a different Aston Villa now.

Bailey, Ings and Buendia were all crowd-pleasing signings, but in hindsight, they weren’t what was needed. Things were going wrong before Grealish went, because of the midfield.

If McGinn had been viewed as an attacking force or a creative piece of the aggregate, then he would have replaced one of those signings and not been played out of place in deeper midfield.

It’s easy to say now, but that’s the obvious difference between Aston Villa’s McGinn and Scotland’s version.

McGinn should have been moved out of deep midfield back then because it’s too late now.

Aston Villa have strengthened the positions he could be playing in and McGinn wouldn’t be guaranteed the freedom without consequence, he enjoys for Scotland.

So unless things change, you will continue to see an uglier John McGinn for Aston Villa than you do for Scotland.


Follow Phil on Twitter here – @prsgame

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