Player Focus – Barry Bannan
Wee Barry Bannan is set to take part in Scotland’s friendly with Denmark tonight and at 21, has already established himself as a regular fixture in the senior international squad.
Overshadowed in a sense by the barnstorming early season displays of Marc Albrighton, the diminutive Scot has turned the tables this pre-season, impressing in a variety of midfield roles. Bannan’s long ball to Marc Albrighton at Craven Cottage last term which saw the winger dispatch arguably Villa’s goal of the season last year lives on in the memory banks, and the youngster will be hoping for a chance to impress on Saturday having stolen the show away to Fulham under Houllier.
The 21-year-old can play across the midfield and his distribution and range of passing at such a young age has caught the eye of Scotland coach Craig Levein. Having struggled to stamp his authority on the side last season, Bannan was loaned out to Leeds, hoping for regular first team football. Instead he was again overshadowed by another Villa youngster at the club, with the Leeds faithful full of praise for Eric Lichaj.
The limited game time in this loan spell seems to have frustrated the little man and egged him on somewhat this summer to prove his worth to Villa. If he is to fulfil his promise at the club he will need to be given the freedom to roam in midfield, with his intelligence and creativity something that the side has lacked from central areas, from last season in particular.
Having eluted to his small stature many times already, Bannan suffers from a height deficiency all to familiar among Villa’s midfield ranks. I have noticed in glimpses that, not dissimilarly to Delph, Bannan has a tendency to lash out when frustrated or out-muscled, and the Scotland international will no doubt have been working on his upper body strength in pre-season.
The main feature that is hampering Bannan’s involvement in the side is a glut of miniature midfield talent, with the aforementioned Delph joined by the more experienced heads of Ireland and Makoun in those vying for a central berth. Of the four, Makoun is perhaps most likely to start, while Petrov’s presence in the middle of the park, despite being a diminishing one, remains a permanent fixture.
With McLeish’s likelihood to stick to the one up top system in order to compliment Bent’s game, a position in behind the front man is yet to be decided following the departure of Ashley Young and, based on pre-season showings, I sincerely hope Bannan gets first crack of the whip.
2010/11 Bannan Breakdown
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