Aston Villa - A Case For The Defence
I can't believe that the season is nearly over ... where does the time go?!?! So it is the time of year we start to move towards our player of the season awards and our ratings for the players through this campaign. The season has seen plenty of ups and downs, so how do I think the players have rated and how much do you agree or disagree with my view... gulp!
The case for the defence.
It has to be said that we do put a lot of pressure on our defenders with the way we play as we don't always keep or hold up the ball as much as maybe we could, so we rely on the defenders being strong and soaking up play in order for our speedy boys to then attack on the counter.
At home this season Villa have conceded 15 goals, away 23. Take away the awful 7 goals conceded at Stamford Bridge and you have a solid away record there. (Last season it was 21 home and 27 away goals conceded.) Only Chelsea have a better home record than us, we have lost only 2 games, they have lost 1. Away from home we've lost 5, only Manchester United have lost less (4).
Brad Friedel 8
Don't think the ageing keeper has let us down often in this campaign but you have to wonder how much longer he can keep going at this level. On the displays this year I'd think he has another season in him, question then I guess is what do we do then? Would be great to see Brad, with his years of experience at the top level, stay on as a goalkeeping coach. The million dollar question for the management team to answer is if Brad Guzan is good enough to fill the role?
Brad Guzan 7
Some cup heroics added a point to his tally. Fair enough we only got to see him in the Cup games but his penalty saves helped earn us a place at Wembley. Good enough to progress to be our Number One? I hope so. I don't know though, that is for the coaching staff to decide, if not some money needs to be spent this summer. If he ends up half as good as the other USA keepers who have graced the Premiership we'll have a gem though.
How do you rate this player? Last season I thought he was one of our players of the season. This time around he suffered the sad loss of his brother in pre-season and then once back and fit, didn't really get much of a chance with Martin O'Neill for some reason preferring centre back Carlos Cuellar in the right-back spot. I'd have had him in the team every game he was available personally but then, I'm not the manager. I would expect the player to be knocking on the door of the gaffer this summer for an exit, he is too good to sit on the bench game in game out, especially when the person keeping him out isn't a right-back. My hope is that he can be convinced his future lies here, on the experience of this season, I'd doubt it.
James Collins 8
Like many of us, I knew nothing of this chap when we signed him. Ok, I knew he played for West Ham but didn't know if he was any good or not! It was a shrug of a signing where I really didn't know if it was good or bad but was more than happy to find out. Even more happy when we found out he was excellent! Great first season in the claret and blue. He was voted by Vital Villans man of the match four times and came second three times. Solid, no nonsense defender who has a great header on him for the odd goal as well. (2 goals, one PL and one FA Cup)
Richard Dunne 9
Another new player who has excelled and it certainly makes you wonder what Manchester City were thinking when they sold him. Their loss was our gain. He has made many match saving tackles and interceptions and also chipped in with three premiership goals. A solid and dependable signing.
Carlos Cuellar As a centre back 8 As a right back 6
Bit of a difficult one this. As a centre back I think the guy is solid, really like him and think it is obvious, same as the Olof Mellberg situation, that he is a central defender NOT a right-back. On the right he has the odd good game (like against Man City) but often gets caught for position and his distribution going forward is pretty average. Had a mare at Wembley in the Carling Cup final, which does leave you wondering why he has been forced to 'fit in' at right-back when we have a very good natural full back in Luke. As said, in the centre, no worries at all and very solid. Be an interesting summer if Real Madrid really are interested in him, he is on the fringes of the Spanish side and Madrid I believe is his home town. He chipped in with 3 goals, two in the PL and 1 in the FA Cup.
Sidelined by shoulder surgery, he got fit towards the end of this season but hasn't featured. Be interesting to see if he is prepared to stay and fight for his place back in the team, he is young and if he has patience will certainly be a big part of our future. Patience isn't always something Premiership players have though. Hope he stays, on his day he is a top defender.
Another whose season was wrecked with the long term injury following his dislocated ankle. Hopefully he'll enjoy a good pre-season and be back in contention next season. He has featured a few times in the reserves.
Another I can't rate because he has hardly had a look in. Looks ok to me when he does get the odd game. Another I'd expect to be asking for a summer exit.
Stephen Warnock 8
A great signing I think. Ok, the odd game he seems to fade in and out but by and large I don't think he has let us down and has added a bit of strength to the squad. Looking forward to seeing how he develops next season for us.
James Collins said to the official site after the Man City game: 'We've progressed - that's individually and as a team. We've got to the final of the Carling Cup, semi-final of the FA Cup and we're going to finish in the top seven in the Premier League. That's great and on a personal level coming from West Ham to Villa has been great.'