With the yesterday’s announcement of a new deal for Villa midfielder Ashley Westwood now in the rear-view mirror, it gives us a chance to look at the long-term ramifications of the player’s new five-year deal to stay at Villa Park.
Immediately, it shows James Nursey was an idiot back in April, and that the central midfielder is most definitely in Tim Sherwood’s long-term plans for the Aston Villa side. Alongside Idrissa Gueye, Jordan Veretout and Carlos Sánchez, Villa’s crop of talented central midfielders are all set to stay at the club for a while; Sánchez’s contract is now the first to expire, in 2018.
But in the bigger picture, it illustrates what should be obvious: Westwood and Villa are a near-perfect fit right now, and should continue to be for the long-term future.
Let’s assess where both are at the moment, and where they’d like to go.
Irrespective of your opinion of his style of play, I think we’d all be able to agree Westwood is a good Premier League player. He’s nothing special, nor is he in the England picture, but he’s a solid guy to have as part of your starting XI. When he has influence on a game, it’s a little behind the scenes, but he’s also the type of player who has room to grow.
At 25, he’s starting to enter what should be the prime of his career, and doing it with contract worries well behind him. If Westwood is ever going to take that step up to the next level, we’re going to see it in the near future; that England call-up can’t be too far away if it’s ever going to happen.
And let’s look at Villa. The club’s struggled, and as far as talent is concerned, it’s settling in as an alright Premier League side. If the Claret and Blues drop this year, I think we’ll all agree it’s not for a lack of talent.
But that’s not to say the club don’t have room to grow, because they absolutely do. Just one player — Gabby Agbonlahor — who took the field for Villa on Saturday could be described as "past his prime," and many, many more are perhaps a couple years off from even cracking the surface.
To parallel Westwood though, this is the moment in Villa’s long-term future in which it needs to start to make that move. With more television revenue coming in, and tons of additions to replace key departures, it’s the year where things need to start to click again.
Villa will never have a greater opportunity than this year to move from being a lower-table side to a mid-table one, a team capable of fighting for the European places again.
For club and player, it’s a very similar narrative. Both are at a crossroads, and both are a perfect fit for each other right now.
In a few years’ time, hopefully Westwood and Villa remain star-crossed lovers. Just at the other end of the table.