By Anthony Onifade

11th Nov, 2023 | 12:40pm

Tim Iroegbunam must use international break to boost fitness levels, Unai Emery could reward him with Aston Villa first team opportunities

Aston Villa youngster Tim Iroegbunam is nearing a return to first-team action at Villa Park and the forthcoming international break may not have come at a more crucial time for him.

The Spaniard revealed that the Englishman had returned to Bodymoor Heath and was training with the first team and injury expert Dr Rajpal Brar told Villa News (12 October) that it is encouraging news for the youngster and Aston Villa after his latest setback.

The 19-year-old wonder was involved in the matchday squad in the 3-1 win over Luton Town on 29th October and featured for the under-21s in the Football League trophy against Crawley Town in a 3-2 defeat (7 November) making a major impression.

As per SofaScore, the young English talent was sensational off the ball, winning a whopping 16 duels in his 90 minutes of action, recorded 73 touches, successfully completed 75% of his passes, recorded two key passes, successfully completed four dribbles and won eight fouls in an eventful and dominant display.

Iroegbunam registered 2.8 tackles and interceptions [SofaScore] per game over the course of the of last season with QPR while chipping in with the two goals from the middle of the park as the England U20 international continued to display his superb defensive instincts.

John McGinn (2.6) and Jacob Ramsey (2.7) both made a similar number of tackles and interceptions per match for Villa in the Premier League during that period, which shows that the young gem is producing solid numbers in that department and he’s well on course to feature regularly at Villa Park.

The QPR loan was his only real experience of playing senior football on a regular basis and he was able to stand up to the physical test of the second tier with a ground duel success rate of 50% to go along with his multiple interventions each game.

However, with Emery favouring a progressive possession game now at Villa Park, Iroegbunam could use some fine-tuning in that department.

According to the Opta-powered stats on FBREF, Iroegbunam was in the 9th percentile of midfielders in Europe’s next eight leagues beneath the major top flights for passes attempted – recording a disappointing average of just 34.01 per 90 minutes.

As well as this, the teenager was in the 7th percentile for total passing distance (420.18 yards per 90) and the bottom 10% of his counterparts for progressive passing distance (107.70 yards per 90).

It’s certainly pleasing news that the youngster has returned to first-team training at Bodymoor Heath but the international certainly comes at the right time for him to gain first-hand tutoring from Emery which he must make great use of.

The Spaniard will certainly be hell-bent on further drilling those Aston Villa stars who won’t be featuring for their countries during the week and a half away from club football in his system and Iroegbunam may feel that may just be the opening he needs to prove himself to the former Villarreal boss.

It remains to be seen whether the 20-year-old could be set for another loan move in the January window but given his burgeoning talents and highly-rated reputation at Villa Park, his first-team opportunities almost look a sure guarantee.

However, that can only happen if he grabs the opportunity to work with Unai Emery over the international break with both hands. The ball is certainly in his court.

In other Aston Villa news, Lucas Digne failed to convert any of his 10 attempted crosses on Thursday in one of three things learned against AZ Alkmaar