- Jason Davis

Michael Bradley's loan move to Aston Villa in the closing hours transfer deadline day was rightly hailed as a step forward for both American players and Bradley himself. There may be some debate as to whether the English Premier League is definitely a better place for Bradley to improve than the Bundesliga, but there's no doubt that his profile will grow at a respected club like Villa in a highly visible league like the Prem.

Of course, he has to play for his profile to grow. Bradley going directly into the Villa lineup is not a foregone conclusion by any stretch. In fact, a quick check of some of the best Aston Villa blogs indicates that while USMNT fans are beaming over Bradley's move, Villa fans view the midfielder as somewhat superfluous to their needs.

Kirsten Schlewitz at 7500 to Holte:

And now he's at Villa, where he will be a bench player. The days of small squads for the Villa are past, and Gerard Houllier has said that Bradley has been brought on to provide cover in case injury-pocalypse happens again. It's great for Villa fans to know they have dependable legs on the bench, but as for Bradley, what does he have? A reserve role.

Villa is hardly lacking for central midfield options, which makes Bradley's move there a bit of a gamble. Stiliyan Petrov currently fills the role Bradley would best fit. There's Nigel Reo-Coker, Fabian Delph, Robert Pires, and the recently acquired Jean Makoun, most of whom are presumably ahead of Bradley in the pecking order. The American might have stepped up in terms of prestige, but it's likely his playing time will suffer for it, at least in the short term.

Schlewitz again, implying that not only is Bradley well down the depth chart from the outset, he's also not the type of midfielder that fits into the tactical setup manager Gerrard Houllier has implemented.

Of these players, Bradley is most like Petrov, a box-to-box midfielder. Petrov could be on his way out next season, so some might think it makes sense to bring in a replacement. But with the shift in Villa's tactics, a box-to-box mid isn't even necessary anymore. The club could field a destroyer and a creator, a Bannan-NRC pairing. And if they do go box-to-box, what about Delph? He's a midfielder the Villa faithful have been anxious to see more of, and even the few minutes we've seen after his injury have been positive. It seems Bradley would be behind Delph in the playing order.

Writing before a the loan was done, and without knowledge of  the details (namely, the option to buy), Dan of Aston Villa Central is mostly of the same opinion. Failing to see where Bradley fits this season, Dan supposes that the loan is an investment for next season. Instead of a replacement for Petrov, though, Dan imagines Bradley filling the shoes of the likely-to-depart Reo-Coker.

I would suggest that Bradley would be an excellent replacement for Reo-Coker; he’s mobile, well motivated, disciplined, just as happy to put a tackle in as Reo-Coker, but has superior passing skills and vision in my opinion. He’d also be a good deal cheaper I imagine.

"A long term trial" is how Dan puts it, suggesting that Bradley is destined for some bench time this year, but will be a fine permanent signing in the summer.

So, assuming this loan move goes though, if it’s a strategy to secure the opportunity to bring in a quality player permanently, it’s great. But if it’s just a loan for the sake of bringing in another central midfielder, it seems pretty pointless to me.

Michael Bradley has never met a lineup he couldn't crack, and couldn't crack in short order. From MLS to Holland to Germany, Bradley has always proven his worth, stepped in as a starter, and remained there as long as he was healthy and available (meaning not suspended). His rise up the European soccer ladder (again, assuming Germany to England is a step up) has been swift (he's only 23) and impressive. While Villa experts wonder how much he'll play, there's every reason to believe he'll find a way to make himself a first choice player for Houllier. It's what Michael Bradley does.

Until that happens though, American fans should remain patient. Michael Bradley in the Premier League is worth a little excitement, even if he doesn't play right away.

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