After seeing Ross Barkley limp off with a hamstring injury in the opening moments of their clash against Brighton, Aston Villa may have been holding on to the hope that the England international would make a swift return to action.
The midfielder has been a revelation for Dean Smith’s side since joining them on loan from Chelsea, fitting in well in the number ten role and producing some stand-out displays, including scoring against Liverpool in Villa’s 7-2 thrashing of the reigning Premier League champions.
But in an update on his fitness, Smith admitted that this weekend’s game against Wolves is just going to come too soon for him, saying: “With the postponement of the Newcastle game, it’s one less game for him to miss. His recovery is going well so hopefully he will be back, not for the Wolves game, but some time just after that. We don’t have to push him so quickly, that’s for sure.”
With Villa not having too many out-and-out options to replace Barkley in the central attacking midfield role, that could potentially see a slight change to the tactics.
Bringing in someone like Marvelous Nakamba into the starting line-up could give Smith the chance to allow the likes of John McGinn and Douglas Luiz the freedom to play more offensively, and let the former take the bulk of the defensive burden.
Hailed as being “under-rated” by ex-Villa ace Alan Hutton, Nakamba has proven that he’s someone who can anchor the midfield, averaging an impressive 1.9 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per game in the Premier League last season.
This campaign has seen him feature far less regularly for the club, making just two appearances in the top-flight in total, managing only 13 minutes.
Barkley’s injury blow however has given Smith the golden opportunity to bring the Zimbabwe international back into the fold, and it could well turn out to be a masterstroke.