Aston Villa sanctioning an exit for their underused 29-year-old star would be the right move

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Conor Hourihane of Aston Villa looks on during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at Villa Park on September 21, 2020 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

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Why Aston Villa should sanction loan exit for Conor Hourihane 

According to Wales Online (h/t Birmingham Live), Aston Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane has emerged as a loan target for Championship promotion-hopefuls Swansea City in the January transfer window.

The Swans are on the lookout for fresh additions to bolster their squad this month following the departure of loanees Kasey Palmer, Viktor Gyokeres and Morgan Gibbs-White.

It is understood that Hourihane is open to a departure from Villa Park this month after struggling for regular game time under Dean Smith, although the report doesn’t mention whether the Villans are willing to part ways with him. (Wales Online h/t Birmingham Live)

Hourihane played a key role in Aston Villa’s promotion-winning 2018-19 campaign in the Championship via the Playoffs, registering 8 goals and 12 assists in 46 appearances. But the Republic of Ireland international has had to be content with a diminished role in the set-up following the club’s return to the top-flight. 

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England’s defender Reece James (R) runs away from Republic of Ireland’s midfielder Conor Hourihane (L) during the international friendly football match between England and Republic of Ireland at Wembley stadium in north London on November 12, 2020. (Photo by MIKE EGERTON / POOL / AFP) / NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo by MIKE EGERTON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The 29-year-old managed more than decent returns of 3 goals and 5 assists in 27 Premier League appearances, including 18 starts last season. However, the midfielder has been limited to a bit-part role this term, starting only thrice in the PL so far. He has still contributed with a goal and an assist but has remained an unused substitute in the last six league fixtures.

Villa shouldn’t hesitate to sanction a loan move

Putting things into perspective, Aston Villa shouldn’t hesitate to sanction a loan departure for Conor Hourihane. The left-footed midfield enforcer has cut a frustrated figure on the bench over the first half of the season and his situation is unlikely to change dramatically in the coming months. 

Douglas Luiz and John McGinn have been the undisputed first-choice central midfielders for Smith. Both players have done a terrific job in the middle of the park, contributing greatly to Aston Villa’s stunning start to the 2020-21 campaign.

With academy prospect Jacob Ramsey also emerging as a genuine first-team option for the manager, Hourihane faces the risk of finding his opportunities limited even further heading into the second half of the season.

It would perhaps have made sense for Villa to retain Hourihane had they still been competing on multiple fronts. But with the club already out of the FA Cup and EFL Cup, they can certainly afford to trim down their squad by parting ways with some of the fringe players.

Chelsea loanee Ross Barkley is also back in the mix after a lengthy layoff due to a hamstring problem, which should make it even more difficult for Hourihane to stake a claim for a starting position.

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Aston Villa’s Irish midfielder Conor Hourihane controls the ball during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Brighton and Hove Albion at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on November 21, 2020. (Getty Images)

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Make no mistake, Conor Hourihane has been a fantastic servant at Villa Park over the years. He could still play a part in the second half of the season but with the midfielder set to turn 30 next month, the Lions should respect his choice if he wishes to rebuild his career elsewhere with regular game time.

He has more than earned the right to make his own choices and a player of his calibre certainly deserves to be playing week in, week out. 

Having said that, it’s a no-brainer that a temporary move to the Championship would allow Hourihane to start playing regularly once again. Swansea are in the mix for automatic promotion and an experienced campaigner like him would make for a fantastic addition to Steve Cooper’s rather young squad. All in all, this is a move that should work out well for all parties involved.