After conceding seven goals within one week in the middle of August, Aston Villa’s defence has tightened considerably.
In September, Villa only conceded one goal across a six game spell. That’s some turnaround.
Now only three teams in the Championship (Preston, Middlesbrough and Cardiff) have conceded less.
One rule in building a successful team, although it’s not a definitive rule, is that you build it from the back.
A good example of that principle being George Graham’s Arsenal team of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
“One-nil to the Arsenal” became an Arsenal fan favourite chant, as Graham’s team would frequently end games winning by that score. It might not have been pretty, but he won League titles that way.
Villa collected their first 1-0 win of the season against Bolton and while not an ideal showing, supporters can now seek solace in the fact that Villa can grind it out when they need to.
Steve Bruce has publicly stated that his first aim with Villa was to make them difficult to beat, which obviously starts with the defence.
When you look at first choice back four and keeper this season, it contains the only four players to be ever present in the league for Aston Villa this season.
Sam Johnstone, James Chester, John Terry (showing durability despite his years) and Neil Taylor are the only players to start in all 11 games.
Also, Villa’s current right-back Ahmed Elmohamady, along with defensive midfielder Glenn Whelan, have the next most amount of starts with both starting 10 games each. Although Elmohamady’s starts haven’t been exclusive to a defensive position.
Early games in August, where goals were shipped, were no doubt part of the process of learning and gaining an understanding. After all, you sometimes learn quicker from your mistakes.
When you consider all the players have come in during recent Steve Bruce transfer windows, bar James Chester, it’s understandable there would be an adjustment period.
Villa have suffered from not having a consistent and reliable defence for far too long now, so it looks like Bruce has at least nailed that down.
From the ever-presents to their defensive shield in Whelan, you can be see that this is the foundation that the current team is build on.
Now whether it turns into a fully-fledged automatic promotion team depends on further improvements at the other end of the pitch.
New podcast episode incoming, so make sure you’ve listened to this one first: