The Missing Links and Needs of the Aston Villa Team.

 

 

Goalkeepers

Obvious, but still an interesting place to start in the squad as could be a contentious one.

I like Guzan, he seems a decent hard-working guy and nobody would doubt he has kept us in games for the last few seasons. At times, he’s been left horribly exposed by a truly Sunday league back four. He’s a great shot stopper, of that nobody will doubt, however, I do have serious doubts about his distribution and overall command of our penalty area.

We never conceded this many goals from set plays when Brad Friedal was keeper and as his understudy, Guzan barely ever kept clean sheets in the games he played. Never the less I’m sure he’ll be staying put.

Personally I’d have him back as number two and try to take Heaton from Burnley. Shay Given of course will likely see out his lucrative contract at Villa, but he’s no longer number one material and doesn’t inspire confidence any more. With Seigrist out for possibly a year and Jed Steer untested, it remains a question of whether Sherwood thinks a new number one would set the solid foundation to finally addressing the backline problem or does he go with what he’s got for another season to then focus other areas?

 

Defence

Where do you start? At the moment, if anyone in the Holte End brings their shin pads and boots, it would be worth throwing them on to have a go, as they could’t be much worse.

At times our defense was average and capable of dealing with the sides around us. Yet for the most part the you only had to watch MOTD on Saturday nights to watch our centre- backs being used as the example of how not to defend (Bare in mind some of these guys are so-called internationals).

Arguably then the major surgery needed and biggest missing links are at the back.

You can make a case for any of those guys never playing for us again.

Personally, Ciaran Clark’s vast improvement was one of the few highlights of the season and he was probably the only person who distinguished himself at times. Baker also had some good games. But I go down our squad list and look at our defensive options and see Senderos, Okore (needs to improve), Bacuna (not defensive minded) Hutton, Cissokho, Lowton and Richardson and see a group of players who are squad players at best.

For where this club wants to be, those guys are not going to cut it.

So called “concrete” Ron gets his own paragraph….GO, JUST GO, he doesn’t want to be there, he’s played like a guy who doesn’t want to be there for a while. His injuries make him a liability and his lack of pace leaves him horribly exposed at times. He also failed to build any kind of partnership with Okore or Clark. After his World Cup heroics (although holland played with three centre-backs) many felt he was too good for us (as did he) but surely any of the big boys looking at him now will see a very average player who had a purple patch on the biggest stage and then fell back down to earth with a bang.

Certainly he is not in the league as some of Villa’s more legendary defenders (Mcgrath, Mellberg, Southgate, Laursen et al) and you cant say he isn’t replaceable.

At full-back position on both sides we’ve looked horribly exposed and at times downright naïve. The amount of times mistakes or bad positioning in that position have cost us games is frightening.

The likelihood of Vlaar, Lowton, Cissokho all leaving is high. Clark, Okore and Baker have room for improvement, while the others are simply squad padding.

Missing links? Two centre-backs. Probably two new full-backs too, in reality I’d take a centre back to partner Clark and a new left-back. At right-back Hutton can do a job and Bacuna may get a pre season to improve.

The projected arrival of Micah Richards would certainly be a good start as he provides an athletic addition to the back-line, either as a centre-back alongside Clark, or in a centre-back three alongside Clark and Okore. Richard’s ability to play right-back will also offer Sherwood some vital flexibility in tactics too, if he elects to switch from three centre-backs during a match.

 

 

Midfield

30th May….Wembley stadum, which looked more like a scene from Gladiator, where Villa’s midfield were massacred by a far stronger, fitter, superior technically and tactically team of superstars.

Messrs Cleverly, Delph, Grealish, Nzogbia and Westwood simply didn’t turn up. Which is a huge shame as I think at times most people could see the improvement we had made in that area of the field.

With Cleverly already pledging his future to Everton, we’re one down before we’ve started. With Gardner back in from loan, that builds the numbers back up. It’s likely to be a make or break year for Gardner, who really needs to prove he can cut it in the Premier League.

Delph signing a new contract last season was a big plus for the club as keeping him was key (possibly more so than Benteke), he’ll grow into the captaincy I think and on a good day can give the side the drive it needs, although he does need to tidy up his game in possession.

Grealish is looking a prospect for the future but lets not pile on the pressure too soon. Gil? The jury is out really. Many of the fans were baffled by his omission at times as he does bring something different.  Joe Cole? Quite simply a spent force and as great as he was, he cannot be part of a Villa side moving forward.

Bacuna gets his slot in my midfield but not as a defensive option, he is just that though…an option. Westwood I like, again – he does a job…the same with Sanchez, but, at some point for this team to really step up and move forward and up the league, players like Westwood are going to have to go toe-to-toe with the big boys and I just don’t see it in his game. His passing is neat and tidy but he doesn’t have that Michael Essien bite to his game (who btw was recently available on a free….deffo missed a trick there) the term enforcer isn’t one you would associate with him.

One Charles Nzogbia gets his own paragraph also…on his day, he was fantastic to watch (in other colour shirts) but too many times during his time at Villa, he has gone missing. He offers you so little attack and as anyone present at the Burnley game, watching him defend is heart in mouth stuff, it was a truly embarrassing performance, matched only by his cup final no show. He could be an option for the bench but no more than that for me. If we can cash in, I’d say do it as again, moving forward he isn’t gonna cut it for where we aspire to be as a club.

On a side note, would it be too much to ask for a winger? Or at least, someone who can deliver a good cross perhaps? Or heaven forbid, beat the first man from a corner, our set play delivery has been poor at best since Young, Downing and Milner departed.

Missing links? Delph needs a partner he can build a solid foundation with, in time I’d like to think Grealish can be the playmaker. Although one of those wouldn’t go amiss.

 

 

Forwards

Benteke and his goals almost single handedly kept us up in the end and he deservedly got the plaudits for his end of season heroics. Now he and his agent dominate the back pages for the wrong reasons (from our point of view)

A resolution is likely in the next couple of weeks. If we’re in a position to keep him, then brilliant, we’d get another good year out of him and hopefully his value goes up with the Euros next summer which Belgium should make the semi-finals at least in.

Realistically, he could go if not this summer, definitely next. So with that in mind we’re going to need to plan ahead in the long term…Charlie Austin probably being a prime target for us (personally I see him going to a team in the top half)

Bent finally left this week and that’s a welcome 65k-a-week saved plus the extras apparently worth up to 80k a week with bonuses etc. A shame really that him and Benteke never managed or got the chance to fire up a partnership, which I think a lot of fans hoped for. But ultimately I don’t think he’ll be missed, no doubt he will do a good job at Championship level with Derby.

Weimann looks set to join him in Derby, again he probably won’t be missed, similarly to N’Zogbia he doesn’t offer enough of a threat and isn’t realistically going to impact a game outside of the penalty area…any money we do get will be profit.

Sinclair and Gabby being around could end up being our front two which really would concern me as I don’t see 15 goals a season from either of them. Sinclair is a good player and I do like his work rate and directness, plus he appears really up for getting back to where he was at Swansea. Gabby could find himself spending spells on the bench if Sherwood can bring in the players he wants to. Kozak probably will get a season to prove himself or find himself out on loan.

As for who to bring in? Well, that’s for us all to discuss while we drown away our cup final sorrows and prepare for some pre-season trips.

Names on a postcard or in the comments below (please don’t mention Emmanuel Adebayor) – our shopping list could be a long one.

 

UTV

Follow Chris on Twitter – @BUDD_music

Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid

 

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