The Sense of Senderos
At the current moment in time Aston Villa are unlikely to make a signing that is going to blow supporter’s socks off. Ownership uncertainty sees a club in limbo and shackled by its current owner when it comes to the transfer kitty. The news that free agent Philippe Senderos is heading to Aston Villa bought a few groans from supporters, but in the current climate the signing is perhaps expected and sensible business.
Why the boo boys? Didn’t Senderos once turn down Real Madrid?
From the 2002-2003 season Senderos started playing at the Geneva-based Swiss league team Servettee FC, to the present day, Senderos has been plagued with long-term injuries. The Swiss centre-back has averaged only 15 to 16 games a season throughout his career. In the case of his time at Arsenal and Fulham, at both clubs Senderos picked up a long-term injury soon after signing. You could say the Swiss defender has been cursed by bad luck when it comes to injuries; he even came off injured after just 36 minutes of Switzerland’s famous 1-0 win over Spain in their opening game of the World Cup in 2010.
While a decent line-up of teams have taken a chance on the Swiss international after his time at Arsenal (who’d he allegedly chose above Real Madrid), he’s only played a combined 21 games for AC Milan (14), Everton (2) and Valencia (5).
While recently plying his trade for Fulham in the past few seasons, Senderos is perhaps best known for some inconsistent displays for Arsenal. While a strong physical centre-back, as well as judgement issues, he is perhaps at times a little sluggish and lacks a turn of pace.
Did Lambert get the wrong out-of-contract Fulham centre-back?
Fulham captain Brede Hangeland is of course the better player and someone who was fundamental to Fulham’s Europa League final appearance and their Premier League survival over the years. Having only played in 20 games last season, it’s also more than likely that the Norwegian’s injury cost Fulham their top league status.
But let’s be honest here, considering Hangeland’s recent injury problems and his age of 32, Hangeland is perhaps not the force he once was though. Still, Hangeland will be wanting to be a first team starter. Would he really be a better choice than Vlaar or Okore? I don’t think so. And Hangeland would know that too, so he probably wouldn’t consider coming to Villa anyway.
The more you think about it…
Considering that Hangeland would be asking for a higher wage than Senderos and the Swiss player is three years younger than the Norwegian, Senderos offers much better value for the kind of role Villa have in mind for him. He’ll be there to provide competition for Okore and Vlaar and more importantly experience cover for the obligatory injuries that seem to afflict the Villa backline (including Vlaar’s annual Christmas holiday!).
Senderos has enough experience to still make good on the initial promise that he showed in Arsenal’s passage to the 2006 Champion’s League final, so could prove a decent signing if he stays fit. Despite his injuries over the years, he’s still managed to rattle up over a half-century of international caps for the Swiss and is in their World Cup squad for Brazil this month. That counts for something.
The mark of a good Villa centre-back in recent times is that he should be an international and in that respect, Senderos is joining the likes of Mellberg, Laursen, Dunne, Collins, Vlaar and Okore.
In previous seasons Lambert has been left exposed for experienced centre-back cover when long-term injuries to Dunne, Vlaar and Okore have left gaping holes in the Villa backline, that the youthful exuberance of Clark and Baker was never going to fill. When faced with such injuries, Lambert was criticised for shunning the January transfer window both times to patch-up his defence, so at least in the forthcoming season he has prepared in advance.
It is what it is
Senderos has been brought to be experienced squad cover. Cast you mind back to the aforementioned seasonal appearance average in Senderos’s career, and it’s fair to say, even if he stays fit, you could expect Senderos to play a similar amount of games at Villa next season (15-20 league games, plus cup games). He’ll give Villa a bit more depth and offers Lambert an option if he plays a back three. Perhaps his arrival could signal the departure of Nathan Baker? Clark would probably get the nod over Baker to stay due to his versatility as a potential utility player.
A good World Cup by Senderos could have a few Villa fans rethinking their initial reactions to his signing. The bottom-line is he is a squad player and it shouldn’t be forgotten that Jores Okore will be the new first team centre-back that we didn’t quite get to see in earnest last season. Compared to most of last season, Villa are two international centre-backs up, and it’s good to see at least some progress in these uncertain times. UTV