Last season, we almost viewed the transfer of Birkir Bjarnason from FC Basel as an outright failure. Not because of a lack of talent or ability, but because Aston Villa, once again, seemingly had a player with whom they had absolutey no idea what to do with. Left-wing? Left-back? Centre midfield? Defensive midfield? He played across the park for Villa and while an injury ruled him out for the rest of the 16/17 campaign, it looked as though he was in danger of becoming yet another Leandro Bacuna - those fears continued deep into the 17/18 season, where Birkir was deployed as a bit-part player. That all changed when he was forced into defensive-midfield in a game against Nottingham Forest.
From then on, Birkir was deployed to great success as a defensive-midfielder who wasn’t afraid to carry the team forwards or backwards. With him seated firmly on the midfield line when not in possession, he acted as an incredible safety valve for Villa. However, he was only used when Villa were truly desperate. Steve Bruce preferred to insert Glenn Whelan or Mile Jedinak into defensive midfield, which increased their ‘brutality’ but affected almost everything else. Everything that Birkir brought to the park was lost, as he resumed life as a bit-part player.
While he’s the perfect picture of Scandanavian stillness, there is a raging fire within Birkir, who has aired his frustrations numerous times. At first, he seemed adamant on a move away - before finding his place in the team. This came to a head in the play-off final, with Bjarnason demanding to be substituted onto the pitch to push Villa on. Also, he played a fair bit of a World Cup match for Iceland after breaking his nose. Don’t doubt his temper and willingness to push the team forwards.
Referring to our thoughts last season, we made a link to the Norse mythos of Ragnarök. Where the endtimes arrive only so time can begin anew - a true circle. It seems fitting that Villa came so close to doomsday only to freshen out the timeline and set out on a new start. It seems that this summer’s events have brought a fresh start for Bjarnason and Villa.