As is often the case, a player’s absence tends to amplify their importance in a side, and that was indeed the story for Aston Villa and Boubacar Kamara on Sunday.

The 23-year-old missed out at Bournemouth this past weekend due to suspension, and it was certainly a rare scenario given he has featured 20 times across all competitions so far this season, sitting out just once previously.

While it had been hoped that we would be just as effective without him in midfield in terms of playing with the level of control we desire to dictate tempo and impose ourselves in both phases, that simply wasn’t the case on Sunday afternoon at the Vitality Stadium.

Both Douglas Luiz and Youri Tielemans played well to an extent and showed their qualities, but the balance wasn’t right over the course of the 90 minutes, as evidenced by the number of chances that Bournemouth were able to create.

One passage of play that stood out in particular was the second goal from the hosts. After an initial defensive clearing header forward from an Emiliano Martinez ball out, they took two touches and were in on our defence to deliver the ball from the right side.

Ezri Konsa was constantly targeted down that flank and it worked for the Cherries, with Dominic Solanke tucking away his chance to give them back the lead in a key moment in the game.

Now, this isn’t to suggest that Kamara would have fixed all our problems and we would have walked to a win with him in the Villa XI. However, his defensive protection in front of the backline, coupled with his tactical awareness and positioning with that defensive mindset, would certainly have made a big difference.

Villa were unable to impose ourselves as effectively in the game, with the midfield duo of Luiz and Tielemans overrun, bypassed and outmuscled by an energetic Bournemouth side determined to be on the front-foot at all times, and we really struggled to not only stem their attacks, but to have any sense of prolonged control until the latter stages when chasing an equaliser.

The Kamara-Luiz partnership is the heartbeat of the side and fundamental to our success, as they give us a critical balance between defensive solidity and presence in midfield and the technical ability to run the game and pull strings.

We didn’t see that from the alternative combination on Sunday, and there is perhaps an argument in favour of John McGinn being the better option to deputise in the central role, with Tielemans moved a bit wider or behind Ollie Watkins, where he has had success in recent weeks.

Emery’s judgement is undoubtedly superior though and he’ll know better than anyone who is best suited to certain systems and opposition, and he felt that Tielemans and Luiz would give us what we needed.

owever, away from home, against a high-energy and pressing team who showed more intensity and urgency than us for the most part, we lacked physicality and a commanding presence in the heart of the battle. Kamara’s return this week will be pivotal, but time will tell if we see that tweak again in the future, and if it can indeed prove to be successful.

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