If anyone wasn’t convinced of it before yesterday’s showing at Cardiff City, Aston Villa need a new central midfielder this window. Badly.
That’s why it’s nice to see a name like Nottingham Forest’s Henri Lansbury linked with Villa today by Sky Sports. If you remember Lansbury, a 26-year-old central/attacking midfielder, it’s probably because he’s the guy who netted Forest’s equaliser at the end of that wild 2-2 draw back in September — or simply because you’ve noticed he’s one of this division’s best options.
Derby County have reportedly seen a £2.5 million bid rejected, which gives you a ballpark idea of where Villa will have to get to in order to secure the midfielder’s signature. A prospective deal might be made easier by the fact that Derby and Forest are fierce rivals — imagine Villa selling one of their key players to Blues — and that Lansbury is out of contract at season’s end.
Forest are currently undergoing an ownership change, which could either make the deal more (Lansbury won’t sign a deal given the uncertainty) or less feasible (without the play-offs to chase, Forest’s new owners might want to see everyone before selling), but the biggest blow to Villa’s pursuit could be reported interest from Watford and the lure of the Premier League.
If Villa were to land Lansbury, he’d bring something to the table few Villa midfielders have in recent years: goals and assists. He had one of each in the 2-2 draw back in September, but in his 17 matches this season, he’s scored six goals and added three assists. Since arriving at Forest in 2012, Lansbury’s made 145 appearances, scoring 32 goals (one every 4.53 matches) while tossing in 20 assists (one every 7.25 matches). That’s a stark contrast to Villa’s production from midfield this year, where the club’s four central midfielders have combined for just two goals and two assists; Jack Grealish is the only Villa midfielder to have much attacking production, with three goals and two assists.
Lansbury, who can play as either an attacking or central midfielder, could be the more adventurous part of a duo with Mile Jedinak in Steve Bruce’s 4-2-3-1, filling a vital role in the Villa side. Lansbury has, however, been out the last month with a hamstring injury — incidentally, coinciding with a stark downturn in form for Forest. The Reds had won three on the trot, including a win over Newcastle United, before Lansbury’s injury, but have now lost five of six, with a draw the only other result in the run.
Especially if Watford’s offer isn’t attractive enough, or if it never comes in, Villa pursuing Lansbury makes a lot of sense. He’d add goals from midfield, something the Claret and Blues have needed from years, has been a key player at this level for years and instantly would boost Villa’s weakest link in the starting XI. If Villa’s reported interest is true — no word yet from Dr. Tony on that — it would at least signal that the club are after the right type of player.
If the player is keen but Villa can’t come to an agreement with Forest on his transfer, Lansbury could bypass his current club and sign a pre-contract agreement with Villa, joining this summer rather than now. While that wouldn’t be an optimal situation, it could let Villa fill the gap with a loan signing for the remainder of the season, then have Lansbury as the long-term option when next season — which will offer a better shot at promotion anyway — starts up.