Dean Smith has been raving about Aston Villa’s ever-present centre-back Ezri Konsa during today’s media briefing.
The 23-year-old has been a mainstay for Villa ever since breaking into Smith’s starting XI from Project Restart onwards last term and has since struck up an admirable partnership with Tyrone Mings.
Konsa has played every single minute of Villa’s eight Premier League games this season and has helped register four clean sheets in doing so – that’s despite three-straight defeats at Villa Park.
Last year’s £12 million purchase from Brentford has been touted with a future England call-up given his form to date while he’s also chipped in with two Premier League goals this season – including one in front of the watching Gareth Southgate against Sheffield United.
Ahead of West Ham on Monday, Smith was asked about Konsa’s form and, despite his performance level dipping below his usual standard against Brighton last time out, the boss couldn’t speak highly enough of him.
“I don’t think our players like to play against him in training,” explained Smith, before referencing a player who excelled at Villa previously, Manchester United’s Axel Tuanzebe.
“His mindset is on being a top footballer and it’s similar to Axel Tuanzebe, a player that we had on loan.”
Tuanzebe was a huge hit during his 18 months at Villa Park and helped Smith’s said gain promotion back to the Premier League in 2019 before returning to Old Trafford to sign a new three-year contract with the option of another year.
This season the centre-back has made just one substitute appearance, coming off the bench to fill in at left-back for the final 23 minutes against Everton earlier this month. Tuanzebe, though, starred for United against PSG in the Champions League and drew rave reviews for an assured showing against Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria.
Tuanzebe has played as recently as Tuesday, coming on as a second-half substitute in the 4-1 Champions League win over Istanbul Basaksehir.