Writer: Mike Field
Date:Thursday September 17 2009
Martin O'Neill has long believed in our ability to attack teams, but following the last transfer window he now believes we again have a defence that can shut out the opponents.
Speaking on the official site today, O'Neill continued his praise of the defensive line after the derby match against Blues and he says coupled with our 'attacking flair' it should help us become a force this season - and hopefully have more consistency to our form.
It's not the first time O'Neill has described us as being an 'absolute dream to watch' when we are going forward, but he's also admitted that we have rarely looked stable in defence since the loss of Laursen.
'On Sunday in the derby match, I also thought we looked capable of withstanding things. We possibly haven't always looked like that, certainly since Martin Laursen's retirement.
'So if we can shore up our defence without really losing the attacking flair we possess, it augurs well.'
There's no doubt since the last summer transfer window we have strengthened the squad. For some fans the doubts over whether we have replaced the quality of Barry and Laursen will linger, but overall we have far more strength and far more depth now when compared to any other point in Monny's reign.
We even have options on the bench!
Most discussions on the forum seem to err on the side that we've improved the squad but the first 11 (without Barry and Laursen) aren't as strong. It's what I tend to believe to be honest.
You knew exactly what you got with Barry and Laursen, as yet Sidwell and Coker whilst doing a good job are different types of players and aren't as consistent, or it could be as involved as much as Barry was and Gardner falls into that bracket when he gets on the pitch aswell.
We of course have the youngsters coming through but they still need to learn, and develop and whilst on 'potential' Albrighton, Bannan, or Delph could equally eclipse the importance of Barry to us - they aren't there yet, not for this season on current showings at any rate.
In defence I don't believe we have a single defender who is as important, and as bigger leader as Laursen was for us BUT but now have competition for fullbacks which will improve performances, we have Davies (crocked currently), Cuellar, Dunne and Collins who will spur each other on to greater things. Now Cuellar and Davies both looked better when they were alongside Laursen because of how he organised them, neither are talkers and that is their main downfall.
Dunne and Collins by the looks of things never shut up, so whilst they may not be as good a player in the basic sense as Laursen was, between them they do fill the void he left.
We saw from the Blues match that our defence was far more organised than it probably had been since last February.
We of course also have Clark, amongst others in the reserves waiting for their chances and we saw from Fulham that Clark has a gob, and talent - and doesn't mind using either when on the pitch - so again, although not ready yet, the future is promising.
So ultimately whereas Villa last season maybe looked like a squad of 6-7 'perceived' world class players and our second half of the season form showed we just weren't really playing as a squad. What we have this season now is fewer presumed world class players, but a far greater squad who give more options and provides better backup for injuries and suspensions.
Now if we can get our form sorted out, get some variation in attack, and get back to playing the blistering football we did when O'Neill first arrived we could be in for a very good season indeed.
Another striker in January wouldn't go amiss either!
Date:Thursday September 17 2009
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