Micah Richards has explained he was pleased to see Conor Hourihane starting in the Aston Villa midfield on Monday night.
Dean Smith’s side kicked off their new Premier League season with a 1-0 home victory against Sheffield United and will be hoping they can stay away from a relegation battle this season unlike last year.
Ezri Konsa’s second-half header gave the Midlands club the three points and they made the most of playing against their 10-man opposition, who saw John Egan sent off in the 12th minute.
Richards singled out Hourihane following the Villa result and suggested he’s an important player for the Midlands giants.
The 29-year-old wasn’t a nailed-on starter during the first half of last season for them, but Smith used him much more during project restart and he started in the centre of the park against Sheffield United.
“Happy to see Conor Hourihane in there as well [against Sheffield United]. Great delivery from set-pieces, so they are just getting the balance right,” Richards told Sky Sports’ Main Event channel (10:50pm, 21 September).
Hourihane may not be the most glamorous player in the Villa side, but he’s a really important part of the XI and it’s no surprise to see the Irishman forcing his way back into Smith’s XI.
The left-footed central midfielder was taken off during the second-half, but in the opening 45 minutes was the most creative threat for the hosts and deserved better from some of his deliveries into the box.
There appears to be a great balance in the centre of the park when Hourihane starts alongside Douglas Luiz and John McGinn, which is an energetic combination that is going to cause a lot of teams problems this year.