Dan Bardell: Unai Emery will rotate centre-backs at Aston Villa this season despite Diego Carlos injury return
Aston Villa were dealt a hammer blow in the early stages of the season when marquee summer signing Diego Carlos was sidelined with a ruptured Achilles tendon, but his return from injury is now firmly on the horizon.
After signing from Sevilla in a deal worth £26million, the Brazilian centre-back thrived in pre-season and was named as one of Steven Gerrard’s vice-captains for the start of the campaign.
However, his quick start to life in the claret and blue top was brought to a close just as abruptly when he went off injured in the 2-1 win against Everton back in August – just his second Premier League start for the club.
Fast forward six months and Carlos is starting back at square one as he looks to re-establish himself in Aston Villa’s first-team under new manager Unai Emery.
The 29-year-old was pictured in first-team training (21 February) for the first time over six months before the trip to Goodison Park but hadn’t yet been deemed fit enough to be a part of a matchday squad under Emery.
Speaking to Villa News, The Athletic’s Dan Bardell admitted that Emery would probably look to rotate his centre-backs for the remainder of this season before making Carlos and Tyrone Mings his first-choice pairing beyond the summer.
“I think this season might be a little bit of a write-off for Carlos,” he said. “I know he’s back in training, but he has still only played one and a half games for Aston Villa, so he hasn’t adapted to the new league at all since his summer transfer and now, adding his really bad injury into the mix, I think it is going to be tough for him.
“I do think he will play games, but I don’t think he will start every game this season. I think it will be a case of picking and choosing which games Emery plays him in.
“I think because Villa essentially have nothing to play for in the league, I think you will see Emery experiment with Carlos beside Ezri Konsa for some games and Tyrone Mings for others.
“It sounds as though Emery was a massive driver in Mings signing a new contract and committing his future to the club, so I do think in the long term, Carlos will most likely be paired with Mings. But I think this season, he will be eased back into action and taken in and out of the side quite regularly.”
Although the Brazilian is unlikely to jump straight back into the fold after such a carer-threatening injury, Carlos’ return will come as a huge boost to Emery.
In the little signs of action from Carlos prior to his injury, he looked to be a commanding, strong and vocal presence in Villa’s back line. In that regard, he is extremely similar to Mings, and whether the two would bring the best out of each other is still up for debate.
However, after committing several rash defensive errors since the New Year and having conceded eight goals in their last two outings at Villa Park, Carlos’ return from the club’s medical table will certainly be a sight for sore eyes.
In other Aston Villa news, one of the club’s rising stars can end a barren academy run going back to Jack Grealish.