Aston Villa’s Conor Hourihane could fill a void in unlikely area

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This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more… 

Tuesday night signalled the end to the first international break of the season as another round of Premier League action draws closer.

Those at Aston Villa will have mainly been concerned with Tyrone Mings’ involvement in Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squad as the 26-year-old was called up to represent England for the very first time, though it wasn’t to be as he didn’t feature.

Conor Hourihane was also in action, playing for Mick McCarthy’s Republic of Ireland side in their friendly win over Bulgaria, who England had thrashed 4-0 just a few days earlier.

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The 5 foot 11 midfielder was deployed in unfamiliar territory, but it appeared to pay off with the Boys in Green winning 3-1 which has now left Villa boss Dean Smith with something to think about.

On the Chalkboard

Hourihane played at left-back for McCarthy’s men despite primarily being a central midfielder and with Matt Targett out through injury, it could give the west Midlands club a viable option in the meantime.

The Republic boss said before the match:

“He has all the tools to play there that’s for sure. He is a very intelligent player. He has a wonderful left foot, and if we can get him further up the pitch so he can deliver crosses, we should get some joy out of that.

“It is about trying to find things out. Why would I not try it? That’s what these games are for. What if he’s amazing?”

The Villa boss essentially got a free look at one of his players operating in a different position which can surely only prove to be beneficial in the long-run, especially if Targett is out longer than expected or their other option, Neil Taylor, picks up some sort of issue too.

In the last three seasons, Hourihane has averaged 0.9 crosses or more in the Championship with his best being 1.4 per match in the 2016/17 season at Villa, which shows he can indeed get up the pitch to deliver.

Nine of his assists in their playoff-winning campaign came from crosses, six from a free-kick and two from a corner so that only further emphasises his ability to whip a ball into the penalty area.

It remains to be seen whether we will see Hourihane deputise out left in the claret and blue, but at least Smith knows now he has a potentially viable option, particularly if he favours someone with attacking qualities.

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