This season has been the season of the comebacks here at Villa Park. We have seen the unbelievable comeback of Alan Hutton, who has come from the abyss of the bomb squad to player of the season so far. The likes of N’Zogbia and Bent have found themselves back in first team contention (although the latter now finds himself out on loan). There has also been the comeback of Joe Cole…to the treatment room.

The best comeback this season in my mind however, has been the rebirth of one Ciaran Clark. I once named him Ciaran ‘calamity’ Clark as I felt that every time he played he was a mistake waiting to happen. This season has been a different story altogether for the Irish centre-back. In the nine games he has played he has looked assured and dominant; especially beside Jores Okore.

The timing of this improvement could not have come at a better time with the ongoing injury crisis and the ever nearing loss of Ron Vlaar. But what has changed for Clarke to become this stalwart?

He’s found his partner in crime

Having started the season occasionally filling in for injured centre-back colleges it was unspectacular business as usual for Clark. Partly, it was due to never having an established centre-half partner, so he’s never had a chance to forge an understanding.

Some how Lambert rated Clark above Jores Okore as the fourth in the pecking order. After the impressive clean sheet away to West Ham by Villa’s first choice three centre-backs, they haven’t started for Villa since due to injury. In stepped Clark and Okore and within the space of five games, now some Villa fans regard it as the team’s best partnership. It’s never conceded over a goal a game, which is impressive in the context of Villa defences.

He has become a man

A cliché I know, but hear me out. The way he presents himself on the pitch now is one of authority and confidence. The Irishman used to wander the pitch with no real purpose and tentatively went into challenges. Now however, he fully commits to tackles and aerial duels typified by the best tackle of the season against Leicester which nearly sent Ulloa back to Argentina.

 

 

He has become a leader

If you just watch Clark in a game this season he is commanding figure, leading the back line and commanding when to step up and when to press. It’s almost like he has seen himself as the experienced defender (in terms of Villa appearances) in the current back four, so has took it on himself to be the leader. This took maturity and bravery, especially with the run the team were on at the time.

Clark used to be captain material at Villa youth level and is finally showing the seeds of being such for the first team, although it’s early days yet.

Found his role

In previous seasons he has been used as a left-back when Villa had the great full-back shortage of the last five years. Clark has also been tried in a holding midfield role in the past and frankly looked awkward and lost in this role. This term he has found his home in the centre of defence. It is not only the position of centre-half that he is finding more comfortable but the type of centre-half he is playing as. In the past he has been given the role of the ball-playing defender, which I don’t think suits him. Alongside Okore, who excels with the ball at his feet, Clark can play the more ball-winning defender and marshal of the back four.

Clark has always had goals in his locker as a centre-back. If he played regularly, a defender who could contribute five or so goals a season would be very useful to Villa.

Finally…his confidence is beaming

All these factors have led to the Irish centre-half playing with a new-found belief. I have always felt that Clark has played within himself and was almost in the shadows during games. However, now he looks to dominate attackers and assert himself on games. He has gone from being seen as a liability to being half of potentially Villa’s best partnership.

A comeback that rivals Lazarus and one we truly needed and long may it continue.

UTV

Follow Ash on Twitter at – @bannyboy95

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9 COMMENTS

  1. If we can get few bob for vlaar now do it and get rid of his wages. We dont need him and on his performances for us hes way overated. Clark, okore and baker are thenwya forward. Remember man u looked at clark Its midfield and going forward are the problem. Get some cash for Delph too . Hes cost us with wages near 20m not bad for one and half seasons Whats that 500k per game. Well take half a game off after sunderland game. Why cant Lambert see that even with the crap hes bought there are much better options and methods of play that would get us to mid table at least even flirt with Europe for a week or two.

  2. Vlaar was and is a good defender. Senderos and he had a better record than Okore and Clark. Having just wrote that I agree he was the problem with the youngsters though. Others have more eloquently put why earlier so I won’t repeat it. Think we need to sell him asap. On form Clark and Okore should stay first choice, as Baker seemed to crack a bit last time I saw him. Okore is good but I can see why he was held back a little, thought he looked a little naive. Clark needs to cut out the mistakes that lead directly to goals and he would silence all my criticisms as a CB.

  3. while we are looking at the defence. worth noting that in round 3 of the cup one of our keepers will be facing Manchester United.

    yeovil town just got through, and Jed Steer has been playing for them. If they continue to play him, he will be up against Rooney, Van Persie and the rest in a few weeks time

    that really will be a chance to find out how much potential he has.Could also break him. FIngers crossed.

    trevor fisher.

  4. Was Vlaar the problem all along : I recall Baker being able to play with Senderos but having numerous night mares beside Vlaar. Same for Clarke looks ok with Baker (bit iffy but ok) and looks good when playing with Okore .Last year Clarke and Vlaar were a nightmare partnership. so I ask is Vlaar the problem- is he as good as we thought or was it that the other 3 were so inexperienced it was assumed Vlaar was the better player. Vlaar had good all be it lucky world cup where he was allowed to follow the ball and make crunching tackles that if he missed the other two were fast enough to get back and cover.

    Why break up a partnership that is working just to put Vlaar back in- Leave Clark and Okore until we have a propper reason to turf them out.

    Agreed Clark’s Turn around has been nothing short of amazing – I could not stand the guy all of last season.He was the single cause of some of our worst defeats but this season he really has come into his own. Hopefully its not just a run of good fortune.

  5. I have regularly watched Clark since he was a youth and tipped him at an early age to be a first teamer and, in time, captain. The problem he has had is basically the position he has always been asked to play, He is a natural left footed player, but can kick with his right as necessary.

    On the other hand Baker is only left footed and when a couple of seasons ago they had to play together, Clarke was made to play right side CB; he was young inexperienced and IMO struggled losing confidence. Baker playing in his more natural position looked better and since then has been given the role as necessary, but again IMO he is not as good as Clark, who is more of a footballer, here I disagree with the author. He has far more positional sense than Baker, can control a ball and distribute it far better as well.

    The author is right that he teams up well with Okore, but one does wonder how our clown of a manager has missed this possibility when supposedly he watches what goes on in training – I do wonder!!!

    Given a run Clark will stake a good claim to this position and as I tipped him and compared him to Alan Hansen in the youth set up, I, for one, will be delighted.

    As regards Vlar, he was lucky in the World Cup, he played in a back three, the other two were quick and the slower style of the opposing teams, as compared to the frantic EPL, suited him down to the ground. I really struggle to think of a top team that will take him, especially with his injury record, and if someone comes in with a goodly bid, I will quite happily drive him to sign – I don’t rate him very highly, lets use our youngsters who will be staying around rather than assist our opposition in the EPL by giving him game time! Remember why Cahill left us!

  6. okore and clarke for me,,, they need to learn, and this will be a tough game with all the changes
    it may be we play clarke in midfield,, that would be ok as its experimental,, and we are short handed

    but couldnt vlaar play there,,,,,,,,

    and you forget about baker,,, another one who has raised from the dead

    just a shame zoggy and bent are still buried,,,

  7. Lambert should stick with Okore and Clark. The defence is settled though they will get a torrid time from Man U , Robin Van being in form.

    But given Senderos and Baker injured and Vlaar is 29 and not loyal, not signing a contract and his future is cloudy, to give either Okore or Clark a slap in the face would be stupid. Have we forgotten giving away Cahill? It was obvious he would play for England.

    Players in form on the pitch always better than players with reputations coming back from injury.

    Trevor FIsher.

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