By Scott Smith
Paul Lambert upon his arrival at Villa Park expressed his desire for young, hungry players, which fell nicely into sync with the clubs’ financial situation and its desire to cut the wage bill by selling its highly paid players. Of course, better players command high wages and Villa still have a number of very capable high earners in the side, but none of them as of yet have really performed well this season for a variety of different reasons. Below is an assessment of the contributions and futures of the high earners in our side. Make your own mind up and comment below.
Unquestionably Stephen Ireland has the ability to really shine in this Aston Villa team, and with the style Paul Lambert is trying to enforce this should really be an opportunity for Ireland to shine and cement his spot in the side. However the term “consistently inconsistent” and “frustrating” comes to mind when describing Ireland’s on field performances during his time with the Villa.
We are all aware that Ireland never saw much action for a long period of time when he arrived here and struggled to find his feet before being shipped off to Newcastle in a very unsuccessful loan spell. He has often been criticised and penalised for his attitude and off the field antics. Whether we like the lad or not, the fact of the matter is, he is an Aston Villa player until we are told otherwise and a player who we need to get the best out of.
We are definitely a better side going forward with Ireland in the side and have proven that this season. His ability to find pockets of space ahead of the midfield, link up the midfield with the attack and arrive late into the box is exactly what we need, but we need the best Stephen Ireland, not the one we are currently getting.
He is one of the more experienced players in the squad at this moment in time, and his technical ability and positional sense when we are in possession is someone younger players can learn from if they are looking to improve the attacking side of their game.
Despite everything I have just mentioned, his final ball has often been lacking quality after getting into some promising areas, and if stories regarding the player’s attitude are true, then it is hard to believe we are going to see the best out of Ireland whilst he is at the club.
Time is a precious thing in football, and exactly how much time are we going to give Ireland to get it right at Aston Villa. Whilst I have been impressed generally with his performances this season, he needs a consistent run in the side and perform to his maximum, and start dictating and controlling games which players in his position should be doing. What baffles me is, every formation Lambert has used benefits Ireland. The 4-2-3-1, the diamond 4-4-2, 3-5-2, 4-3-3 all allow Ireland that freedom to drift off the front man without being overly reliant on his defensive responsibilities.
Time left at the club: I would like to say we will get the best out of Stephen Ireland, and see him here for a number of years, but I personally think at the end of this season that will be goodbye.
My feelings on Charles N’Zogbia are mixed at this current moment in time. When we signed him, I like most was delighted, but am somewhat bewildered with his time at Aston Villa. The way N’Zogbia was handled last season in my opinion really set back his career at the Villa. Yes he was disappointing and yes we expected more for the price we paid but let’s look at this logically and briefly, because I’m sure we could debate this argument all day…
We know the kid has quality, and we have witnessed it in brief spells with Villa and witnessed from afar during his Wigan days. The way Lambert sets his side up, this role should be ideal for N’Zogbia. Either wing in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 position is ideal for N’Zogbia because we need players that can drive at people and get defenders running towards their own goals. He is one of the very few in the side that we have that can do that.
Versatility. N’Zogbia can play either wing or off the front and can be very useful as an impact substitute in games where we have to sacrifice him from the starting line-up.
Inconsistency. It’s one word that sums him up. I feel for the player in a way because he was handled poorly by McLeish, who would often pull him off when he is playing well or leave him out after playing very well the game before. People question his work ethic, I don’t believe it to be the case, he works hard, but has had games where it appears he has got the hump, but let’s face it folks, we knew when we signed him that he is not going to be somebody that would be expected to chase back to his own goal line, but we just have not found a way where we can ensure that weakness isn’t exposed whilst getting the best out of him at the same time.
Temperament. We have all heard the reports of unrest at the clubs he has been at. I am going to attempt to turn this into a positive. He has had experience in surviving relegation with Wigan, a team in which he was the main man. Currently he is not the main man at Villa, but it is in his hands to play his way into that position where there is a lot of emphasis on him, like there was with Ashley Young. Has he got the personality and right mentality to be able to handle that? Who knows, but he coped with it at Wigan, which suggests to me the management team did a great job, so this will be a test for Lambert to get this high earning player on track and producing the goods for an in need Aston Villa.
Time left at the club: I would hope he is here for a couple more seasons if we see a good level of improvement. If not, I would say it would be best to cash in on him. Lets see how he performs over Christmas.
Brilliant first season at the club, and has been a brilliant goalkeeper during his career and one of the star performers in the Premier League. However with the emergence of Brad Guzan, the high earning Given has found himself out of the side.
His experience and leadership at the top level could really help inspire the younger players as we move into the business end of the season.
Brad Guzan is still a young goalkeeper, and learning from Given is something that will be very important to him. As a goalkeeper you will always learn new things, especially the fundamental sides of the game – such as decision making, communication, positional sense and mentality.
He is not the Shay Given we have admired for many years and had a poor start to the season following a very poor Euro 2012.
Injury problems. Shay has picked up numerous injuries whilst he has been at the club and we are fortunate to have such a good goalkeeper in Guzan to fill in and now surpass Given in the pecking order.
Time remaining at the club: If we sign another keeper in January, we could see Given leave or even leave on loan, if not then I think come the summer Shay Given will sold.
Get your coat pal!
Scott is also the UK editor of boxing website Fight Hype and a former coach of seven years at Aston Villa FC