Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn gets greater “freedom” when representing Scotland than when playing for his club, Alan Hutton has claimed.
The Lowdown: Staring role for Scotland
The 28-year-old started both matches as Scotland got off to the perfect start in their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, easing past Cyprus 3-0 before recording a stunning 2-0 victory over Spain on Tuesday night.
McGinn started both games, scoring against Cyprus whilst recording a huge 7.68 WhoScored rating, before registering a 7.3 rating in the mammoth victory over giants Spain which was only bettered by captain Andy Robertson and surprise double scorer Scott McTominay.
The Latest: Hutton notices a change
He told Villa News that:
“He goes away with Scotland and he gets the freedom and the license [to get forward].
“A lot of the time, he either plays off the striker, plays in a number 10 role, makes runs into the box and has an effect on the game. That’s when you get the best out of him.
“With Aston Villa, it’s more structured. Especially at this moment in time.
“Sometimes it just depends on what kind of players are in the squad and the Aston Villa and Scotland squads are different so he’s been given two different things to do.
“It’s just a shame he can’t do that in a Villa shirt.”
The Verdict: Get McGinn further forward
Against Cyprus last week, the Glasgow-born star scored his 16th goal for the Tartan Army, putting him seventh in their all-time scorer list.
For Scotland, McGinn averages a goal every 3.3 matches, but with Villa, this is reduced to a goal every 10.7 appearances, via Transfermarkt.
Hutton believes this is down to a difference in positioning for club and country, with the £70k-per-week man occupying a more conservative midfield role at Villa Park.
“Right now he’s playing on the wing but he’s tucked in, he wasn’t exactly a central midfielder but Boubacar Kamara’s injury has seen him move in,” he said.
“It’s more structured under Unai Emery. He’s not really given that license to be up on his way up the pitch and affecting games. That’s down to the likes of Emi Buendia, Leon Bailey and Philippe Coutinho.”
With Emery likely to be targeting European football in his first full season in charge, utilising McGinn further up the pitch could be a valuable weapon for the Spaniard, especially considering that the players mentioned by Hutton are struggling to influence the game in the final third as much as he’d probably have liked.
The trio have scored ten of Villa’s 35 goals in the Premier League this term, with the Brazil playmaker yet to even register an assist, as per WhoScored.
McGinn – who was once hailed as a “midfield machine” by journalist Ashley Preece- is averaging 1.5 key passes per game for his nation but back in the Midlands, this decreases to 0.5 per game, suggesting that he is more than capable of fulfilling a more advanced role and if Emery wants to take Villa to the promised land, then he ought to really consider moving the Scotsman forward in the coming weeks.