By Jonty Banks

21st Mar, 2023 | 11:10am

Tim Iroegbunam can deputise for Boubacar Kamara at Aston Villa next season after acquiring streetwise nature

The Championship can often be a baptism of fire for young loanees, but Aston Villa academy graduate Tim Ireogbunam has made this switch to professional football look like a mere formality.

The 19-year-old has been a mainstay at Loftus Road this season, amassing 18 appearances under three separate managers, and is now ready to ascend into the Aston Villa first-team under Unai Emery.

The Englishman’s defensive contributions week after week continue to defy the expectations of a player so young, and after adding a streetwise nature to his game this season, Iroegbunam looks well-placed to deputise Boubacar Kamara next season.

Speaking on the lessons he has learned during his loan spell at QPR, and as reported by Birmingham Live (21 March), Iroegbunam said: ” Men’s football is obviously not the same as the under-21s and it’s a case of adapting to how different teams and players in the Championship play.

“It’s a lot different to the Premier League, more physical and you always have to be switched on and alert – for example, when you’re competing for headers, players will give you a little push in the back and stuff like that.

“A lot of players are very streetwise and that comes with experience but you try and learn from it. Obviously last season I wasn’t actually playing too many games – I was mostly on the bench for Aston Villa – but coming to QPR and playing a lot of three-game weeks, I’ve had to manage myself well and make sure I recover properly.”

If Iroegbunam wanted evidence that he has started adding this so-called streetwise nature to his game, his defensive stats over the last year would do exactly that.

In a QPR side who have struggled since the departure of Michael Beale in the early stages of the season, the Villa loanee has had his fair share of defensive duties to perform.

And according to the Opta-powered stats by FBREF, over the last year, Iroegbunam is in the 97th percentile for total blocks (1.82 per 90 minutes) and an even more impressive 98th percentile of midfielders for passes blocked per 90 (1.52) in the next eight leagues under Europe’s elite five leagues.

Iroegbunam is also in the top quarter of midfielders for tackles won – most importantly in the defensive third – and percentage of tacklers tackled.

Although the Bodymoor Heath graduate is still only a teenager and still has several gears to click through before reaching his maximum potential, his defensive statistics highlight a player who is ready for Premier League football.

In Kamara’s absence at Aston Villa right now, the team lack a shield for the back four. Douglas Luiz is typically a more creative midfielder, while John McGinn prefers venturing into the final third than sitting back at the base of midfield.

If Emery decides Iroegbunam is ready for his first-team baptism next season, few could blame him after the midfielder’s terrific campaign in the Championship.

In other Aston Villa news, the club could climb into the Europa League places if they sign the Premier League midfielder that Emery is “crazy” about.