Birkir Bjarnason has received nothing but positive praise after his performance against Reading on Tuesday, but is the Icelandic midfielder truly valued at Aston Villa?
Before the January transfer window, Birkir had extremely limited game time and was thrust into the fray around the time that the new year rolled in due to injuries to Mile Jedinak and Glenn Whelan – with Steve Bruce gifting him a role as a holding midfielder.
After a decent performance or two, rumours circled around the player returning to Italy, with news outlets reporting that Bjarnason was close to joining Parma. Birkir then continued to put in performances and dispelled rumours that he was leaving in a tell-all interview with a Icelandic news outlet, saying that he was indeed unhappy before his run in the squad, but was happy to stay after his new found role in the Villa squad – admitting that he wasn’t comfortable playing as a winger – a position that Steve Bruce had played him in unsuccessfully a number of times.
Villa’s form showed an upturn with Bjarnason starting games, as he offered a more mobile approach to that of Jedinak and Whelan in the holding midfield role, allowing Conor Hourihane and Jack Grealish to perform their tasks in the game more effectively.
Bruce has chosen to leave Bjarnason out of the starting eleven on a number of occasions, since his regular inclusion in the squad, such as the more physical derby against Birmingham – which Villa won emphatically.
But there have been a number of times that Bjarnason hasn’t started when a game was crying out for his inclusion, where Villa have struggled due to the lack of mobility.
Granted, Bjarnason received the man of the match award for his performance against Reading, but he has performed fairly consistently since January and has provided himself with a new lease of life at Villa Park.
And with each performance, Birkir has become a fan favourite more and more.
The Iceman, or Thor, has the ability to become a vital part of Villa history, much like his Nordic counterpart Olof Mellberg – it’s just up to the fans to be continually behind him and for Bruce to be confident when selecting him.