John McGinn must rediscover creative spark at Aston Villa under Unai Emery
John McGinn hasn’t had the easiest time at Aston Villa this season, and his struggles have been amplified by the new midfield position he has been deployed in under Unai Emery.
The Scottish international has long been one of Villa’s standout players since being promoted to the Premier League, but his numbers have dropped off considerably this season.
This could possibly have been due to the team’s relegation form under previous manager Steven Gerrard, but McGinn is down in almost every attacking department when compared to his better performances last season.
According to WhoScored, the 28-year-old has only completed 0.5 key passes this term in comparison to his 1.5 last season, while he is completing fewer dribbles and being fouled fewer times in the 2022/23 season.
His goal contributions this term have also failed to meet expectations, having failed to score and supplied just two assists in 20 appearances this term.
The dogged defensive work McGinn gets through on a weekly basis for Aston Villa cannot be underestimated, but it still feels like fans are only seeing half the player that has, at points, burst into life in front of goal during his stint in the West Midlands.
Every Scotland fan knows the numbers that McGinn can produce in the final third when given the freedom of the park, having scored 15 goals in just 52 games for the Tartan Army [Transfermarkt]. However, his position for club and country are vastly different.
When playing for Scotland, McGinn is often deployed just behind Lyndon Dykes as a number ten and told to get opposition defences’ faces and be a nuisance all game long. McGinn isn’t known as the ‘Duracell Bunny’ for nothing, and his impressive attacking displays have never come to a detriment to his defensive work for his country.
However, at Villa, it feels like McGinn is being held back on a leash by Emery and being told to stick to strict tactical instructions – something that, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to suit his game.
As highlighted by WhoScored’s average position ratings, McGinn is at his best when played in a more attacking midfield role (7.33), when compared to his positions on the right (6.55) and left side (7.06) of Villa’s midfield.
Last week’s performance in the 2-0 win against Everton was just a glimmer of McGinn’s attacking capabilities. After winning the penalty for Villa’s opener, he was once again on hand to provide Emi Buendia with the pass for his second-half goal.
Although McGinn was much improved last weekend, many fans will still be filled with a nagging feeling that Villa still haven’t got the most out of the midfielder’s attacking potential.
Whether Emery believes McGinn can do this in a midfield four is unclear, and if he doesn’t start to find his attacking A Game, he could well be looking behind his shoulder for his spot in the starting line-up.
In other Aston Villa news, Villa have been tipped to accept a “big-money” offer for this player in the summer transfer window.