Sunday, October 2, 2022

Aston Villa Keeper Eyeing A Return From Injury Next Week: Big Boost For The Villans?

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Abhinab Ghosh
A 26-year-old sports writer and an aspiring football coach who has road-tripped across the Scottish Highlands, but has never been to Wales. Sucker for cliff-hangers and catchy riffs. Known to be a grunger and not to be a stranger.

In a recent interview (via The Birmingham Mail), Aston Villa boss Dean Smith mentioned that Tom Heaton is eyeing a return from injury next week when he said,

“Tom is back with (Villa goalkeeping coach) Neil Cutler. I’m expecting him to be with our group next week and we’re looking at getting him some games.

“Obviously when he’s back and flying, he’ll give me a great problem, and a problem I actually enjoy having.”

Heaton’s Long Injury Absence Could Harm His First-Team Chances

This latest update will be a welcome bit of news for the Villans, especially after their 3-0 loss at home versus Leeds United on Friday. The Chester-born custodian has been out of action for a long time because of a cruciate ligament injury that kept him sidelined for a significant chunk of the previous campaign.

Heaton was involved in 20 matches for the West Midlands outfit last season when he shipped in 35 goals and secured four assists in multiple competitions. The 34-year-old did well to average 0.6 clearances and 6.0 long balls per game in the 2019-20 Premier League campaign. However, the English goalie was sloppy with his ball-distribution out from the back after making only 52.2% of his attempted passes in top-flight football (stats via whoscored).

Since his injury, the Villans have gone on to acquire the services of Emiliano Martínez, who has made a brilliant start to his career at Villa Park. Dean Smith’s side has already kept three clean sheets in their first five league games because of Martinez’s brilliant form in between the sticks, so Heaton will find it tough to reclaim his place back in the Villa starting XI this season.

Aston Villa's Heaton eyeing a return from injury next week (Heaton is walking in the picture)
Tom Heaton of Aston Villa arrives at the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Aston Villa at Turf Moor on January 01, 2020, in Burnley, United Kingdom. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

What Does The English Goalkeeper Bring To The Table?

Heaton is blessed with terrific reflexes that helps him pull off some solid stops at the back. He excels at making a few quick dives to come to his side’s rescue by restricting the opposition from scoring. However, there is no denying that the English keeper didn’t have a good record for the Villans last season and gave away the ball on too many occasions during his time on the field.

Heaton Set To Return From Injury Next Week: Huge Boost For Smith?

Heaton is not a guaranteed starter at Villa Park anymore, but his timely return will be a big boost for the Midlands club as he will serve as a capable back-up to Martinez this season. The ex-Cardiff City player has even got the experience to give the Argentine a run for his money in the race to earn a regular starting place in Smith’s first XI.

Only time will tell whether Heaton has a long-term future at Villa Park as he is far too good to settle for a spot on the bench. At 24, he is not getting any younger, so we can expect him to be desperate to seek more first-team action in the coming seasons.

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