If you’re like me, then the aftermath of Villa’s dismal thrashing at Newcastle to open the 2023-24 season hasn’t consisted of dissecting what went wrong on the pitch, how the goals were conceded, who needs to step up next week, and all the other components of the typical post-match post-mortem.
No, all I can think about is Tyrone Mings, about the way it became harrowingly apparent all too immediately that not only he was in some awful pain but he had done some serious damage, too. Given the “lengthy rehabilitation process” cited by Villa, you fear for his season, perhaps even beyond that.
It makes you realize that a small blessing of the last week was that Emi Buendía’s ACL injury happened away from the cameras in a training session, because seeing anyone in the kind of pain that Mings was visibly suffering at St. James’ Park on Saturday is enough to haunt you, let along it happening to some of the most likable guys in our squad.
I don’t even know where to start but to say thank you for all of your messages of support Villa fans. From the day I came here on loan I’ve given everything on the pitch, I’ll now give everything off the pitch to come back even better, whilst supporting the team @AVFCOfficial— Tyrone Mings (@TyroneMings) August 14, 2023
I’m not going to embed or link to the video of Mings writhing on the turf because it’s a genuinely gut-wrenching watch, and nobody needs to put themselves — or Mings — through that. Similarly, we chose to use a photo of a healthy Mings warming up as the feature image here, rather than one of him stricken on the ground or being carried off the field. Mings is so closely identified with this team, such a leader at the club, and such a good man that seeing him hurt felt like seeing your friend, even your brother, going through serious trauma.
Incidentally, by my count, that’s now Mings, Buendía, Arsenal’s Justin Timber, and Real Madrid pair Thibaut Courtois and Éder Militão all out with likely or confirmed ACL injuries within the first week of the season. If you pay attention to women’s football, which has been riddled with serious knee injuries for months if not years now, you’ll know this issue hasn’t just appeared overnight.
Back to Villa, and the injury shook the team to its core, that was obvious. Mings is the eternal keystone in the defence, the central foundational block that locks the entire structure together. Without him, stones quickly fall out of place. Sometimes, the whole thing crumbles.
We can’t forget that Villa were already losing and being outplayed by the time Mings went down. But it was much, much worse without him. Emery and Co. must adjust. Can the high-line defensive system, exposed so viciously by Newcastle on probably its worst day to date, still be viable without Mings’ under-rated pace and remarkable powers of defensive recovery? Can either Pau Torres or Diego Carlos fill the gaping hole that Mings leaves? Can other senior figures — think John McGinn, Emi Martínez, Ezri Konsa, Ollie Watkins — step up and lead with the kind of imperious determination that Mings does?
All are questions that need clear answers sooner rather than later. Frankly, we’re only scratching the surface here.
For now, though, and likely for at least a few days still to come, all I can think about is Tyrone Mings. Devastated.