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Tyrone Mings

Defender, Aston Villa

Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings is in contention to make his England debut during the coming European Championship qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo. Having started all four Premier League fixtures since joining the club on a permanent basis from Bournemouth for £20m, the 26-year-old would be England’s latest unlikely international.

Mings struggled to establish himself on the south coast following an £8m transfer from Ipswich, contributing to last season’s loan at then-Championship Villa. He nevertheless played a hugely significant role in their successful promotion push.

If it is against Kosovo, on Tuesday at St Mary’s, that one-time Villa central defender Gareth Southgate first selects him, Mings’ potential career highlight will come at the scene of his greatest disappointment. It was Southampton who released him at the age of 16 owing to concerns over his height – Mings has since developed an imposing 6ft 5ins frame.

A period in non-league football with Yate Town – when he also worked as a barman – and Chippenham Town, where he supplemented his income as a mortgage advisor, followed before the £10,000 transfer to Ipswich that proved Mings’ making. Similarly to Jamie Vardy and Nick Pope – and, to a lesser degree, fellow England squad member Harry Maguire – Mings, called up alongside the also-uncapped Mason Mount and James Maddison, is on course to play for England having taken a rather less-trodden path.

Tactical analysis
Southgate has largely favoured a back four since the 2018 World Cup. If Mings’ call-up represents a reward for his promising form with Villa, the powerful, left-footed central defender increases England’s options and provides effective cover in central areas against direct play. In those senses, he is relatively similar in style to Manchester United defender Maguire.

Mings prefers to build with longer passes from defence, by playing straight balls through or over the opposition midfield, and most regularly into left-sided teammates. He perhaps lacks the composure and passing variety offered by Liverpool defender Joe Gomez, however, particularly when under intense pressure.

The ability to calmly step into midfield to draw opponents and therefore free up teammates – something Maguire demonstrates for both club and country – is also something Mings is yet to fully develop. He is a strong tackler, although his size does impede his ability to rapidly change direction – especially when opponents move on to his blindside.

It is when he is duelling, tackling and covering his central defensive partner that Mings is at his most effective. Despite having often played at left-back, he prefers to remain deep within his penalty area, blocking any low attempts at goal (above). Since their promotion, Villa have required lengthy spells of defending in deeper territory, but their leading defender – working under a former world-class centre-back in Villa assistant head coach John Terry – may have to adapt with England, who often defend on the front foot in the pursuit of maximising their attacking territory.

Role with England
Mings offers significant potential from set-pieces, which so far have proved influential for England under Southgate. They have consistently demonstrated not just creativity, but a willingness to vary their approach. The addition of Mings brings obvious aerial qualities to both penalty areas – not least a powerful leap and the desire to beat opponents to the ball.

The relationship between Mings and his left-back – likely Danny Rose or Ben Chilwell – is of particular importance, because opposing attackers have succeeded after quickly moving around him to attack the spaces in behind (above).

If Rose is selected at left-back, this relationship may need longer to form than a potential one with Chilwell. Tottenham have recently been exposed in this same area, contributing to them conceding goals against both Arsenal and Newcastle, when runners moved between Rose, and his left-sided, central-defensive teammate.

Mings is admittedly unlikely to start against Bulgaria on Saturday, but his very inclusion in the squad represents a significant upturn in fortunes for the centre-back in the last 12 months. If nothing else, the time he spends with Gareth Southgate and his squad will do Villa little harm as they look to establish themselves back in the top division after three seasons away.

Tyrone Mings

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