Tyrone Mings is having a year to remember.
He played a pivotal role in helping Dean Smith’s men claim promotion to the Premier League via the Championship play-offs. And, as a reward for his part in that success, the Villans signed him permanently.
The £20million fee raised a few eyebrows but Villa were confident he was worth it. Three dominant Premier League performances later, Mings has been named in the England squad for the fixtures in September.
On form alone, it’s hard to argue against Mings not being in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI.
Joe Gomez hasn’t been a guaranteed starter for Liverpool. Harry Maguire hasn’t looked quite as assured in the red of Manchester United as he did in the blue of Leicester City while Michael Keane has done just enough to catch the eye in an underperforming Everton side.
Overwhelmed with emotion right now. I don’t know what else to say other than I’m incredibly proud to be called up to the @England squad. Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me up to this point ? pic.twitter.com/KztXT4AsAW
— Tyrone Mings (@OfficialTM_3) August 29, 2019
If Southgate is looking to revert to a back four formation then Mings should be a shoo-in for the left-sided centre-back role ahead of £80million man Maguire.
Unlike the United defender, the Villa No.40 has shown he can play in a team set up to absorb pressure, defending the 18-yard line and repelling attacks, as well as in a high line. He has the recovery pace needed to just snuff out attacks when the ball is played into space.
If the England boss wants to play a three-at-the-back system then Mings’ experience as a left-back stand him in good stead to play on the left of the three, usually where Maguire calls home.
The 26-year-old’s rise has been meteoric. Just seven years ago he was turning out for Chippenham Town and now there’s a valid argument as to why he should start for England ahead of the world’s most expensive defender.
It’s an even more remarkable achievement when you consider he missed over a year of football after suffering a knee injury in August 2015 on his debut for Bournemouth. His next appearance for the club arrived in January 2017.
Some players never recover from that. Even fewer return as improved players. Yet Mings can now make a case to be the most in-form English defender in the Premier League.
Not only does he suit any system Southgate might plump for, but he’s also a good fit stylistically.
Maguire is praised for his ability on the ball. His runs from deep are not exactly marauding but when he gets going he’s difficult to stop.
With England often using a safer midfielder combination, that wildcard factor from the defence is a welcomed addition; it helps the Three Lions create goalscoring opportunities.
In Gomez, Southgate has a defender who can do what Maguire does… only better. He can step into midfield, drive into the opposition’s half and thread a pass into the attacker's feet.
England also have Trent Alexander-Arnold, likely to start with no Kyle Walker in the squad, who just so happens to be one of the best ball-playing defenders in the world. They won’t lose anything by not having Maguire in the team. Southgate’s men just have to switch the side they attack from.
While Mings isn’t known for dancing past opponents, he is handy on the ball. His raking passes from deep are unnervingly accurate. With England often looking to isolate the forwards in attacking situations, the Villa man’s ability to pick passes from the defensive third could be useful.
The sample size is too small to compare Mings’ stats to Maguire’s. It also doesn’t help that they play for teams who adopt different approaches. Having said that, the Villa centre-back does everything the ex-Leicester City star does.
He perhaps does it even better. The only thing missing is experience at this level. Now seems like the perfect time for Southgate to give him that opportunity.