We were treated to another John McGinn special on Thursday after his stunning bicycle kick earned Scotland a 2-2 draw with Austria.
After adding to his impressive collection of notable goals, this time in the blue of his country, it had me thinking it’s been a while since Aston Villa fans have seen that kind of moment from him wearing a claret shirt.
With Villa’s attacking form drying up so spectacularly since the turn of the year with Jack Grealish absent for much of it and other creative midfielders not quite stepping up, is it time for McGinn to be given the freedom as an out-and-out attacking midfielder for The Villans?
We all remember his pile-driver against Sheffield Wednesday, his 25-yard low drive against Nottingham Forest, countless man-of-the-match displays in the Championship, and early parts of the 2019-20 Premier League season in which firmly established him as a fan favorite. This season, a solitary deflected goal, albeit in a 7-2 demolition of Liverpool, is the only goal on his name.
The 26-year-old has been asked to play a different role by Dean Smith, usually playing as one of the two deeper midfielders where he has showcased a more composed side to his game, impressing in other areas such as his passing range.
This has left the more dazzling side of McGinn to spring up for his country when he is often given the freedom of being his side’s main goal-scoring output from midfield. While Thursday’s goal ended an eight game drought for his country, he had seven goals in six before that and will be one of Scotland’s key men at this summer’s European Championships.
He has shown he can be effective attacking-wise in the Premier League too. Following promotion to the top flight, McGinn had four goal contributions in Villa’s first seven games and was often the main threat in the side with others still adapting to the step up.
There was a more ‘gung-ho’ approach to Villa’s play back then and Smith’s change in approach is reaping the rewards, but maybe it is time for McGinn to be let loose on the Premier League once again.
Smith has the personnel to do it, which he didn’t previously have. Morgan Sanson looks well equipped to slot in next to Douglas Luiz in McGinn’s place, allowing the Scot to push forward in the supposed ‘number 10’ role. This will allow McGinn to showcase his marauding qualities once again without being limited by his defensive responsibilities.
After an excellent start to life at Villa, Ross Barkley looks low in confidence right now and has doesn’t look to be fancied by Smith in Villa’s last five; favoring the still developing, Jacob Ramsey.
It would be a great shock if their main man, Jack Grealish, is again absent once Villa’s next game at the start of April against Fulham kicks off, but they need all the help they can get going forward right now and the skipper’s return won’t solve all their problems.
Villa desperately need to show they are more than just the Grealish show.
In super John McGinn, the Villa talisman has a more-than-worthy understudy when he’s not playing and co-star when he is.