One ‘Eck of a job at Villa


As the new season draws upon us, we Villains have a lot to contemplate. More goings (so far) than comings in a transfer period that as of yet has failed to sparkle to life, but one change round B6 has set a few chins wagging. Not even the wildest imagination could have foreseen that the Aston Villa board would covet their most fierce rival manager so much that they would end up acquiring his services.

This lead to wide spread hysteria the like I have never know at Villa Park.Season Ticket returns were threatened and boycott was a familiar word in sound bites across the airwaves, but all things considered this Villa fan believes that this appointment has its benefits for all concerned. In the following article I shall point out the obvious plus points that exist in the Aston Villa squad, some positives that I feel some football fans have forgotten in the midst of the summer recess. Also I shall look to compare the defensive “tale of the tape” between Aston Villa and Birmingham City which should give an insight of what Mcleish will bring. Firstly let’s look at the positives at Villa at the moment:

Fire Power

I think it’s fair to say that everyone (except from maybe the most bitter Mackem) would agree that Alex Mcleish will be chomping at the bit to have a striker with that ability at his disposal. It’s likely that on current form any top level manager would tip their cap in Darren’s direction such is his predatory instinct.

Darren Bents Stats:

I have highlighted some of the good and the bad in the above table. I think the most striking stat is that Darren has a goal scoring record 1 goal in every 3 shots for Villa and a 1 goal in every 5 shots over the course of last season. A remarkable record by anyone’s standard. Also we see that 1 in every 2 shots were on target. This could be improved but it makes his 1 goal in 3 shots stat all the more pleasing considering only 50% of his shots were on target.  On the con side a glaring 67 offsides is streets ahead of anyone else in the league last season. One other thing that Alex McLeish must try to work on is the bias that is clearly shown above towards Darren’s right foot because with his shots to goals ratio the less predictive he is, the more lethal he will become. You can take away from his natural goalscoring ability as is shown by Villa’s record with him/ without him: 26 points with Darren Bent in the team as opposed to 22 points without him. Im licking my lips in anticipation of what he can do witha full preseason among the squad under his belt.

Exceptional Potential

Of all the sides in the Premier League last season Aston Villa used a considerable number of players under the age of 22, 9 to be precise. Players like Eric Lichaj, Jonathan Hogg, Chris Herd, Nathan Baker were blooded but it is too soon yet to know if they will make it at the top level but the fact that they played and didn’t look out of place is a major plus point for McLeish. More notably last year saw the emergence of more regular stars such as Barry Bannan, Marc Albrighton, Nathan Delfouneso, Fabian Delph and Ciaran Clark. These five players are all highly thought of around B6 and next year could see real progression for them. Of the above I have chosen Ciaran Clark as a shining example of the great youth set up that is being cultivated at Bodymore Heath:

Ciaran Clarks Stats:

Even though he made his debut the previous season 2010/11 was a real watershed season for Clark.

Not only did he feature at centre half, left back and even as a defensive midfielder but he also won International honours for the Republic of Ireland. For one so young Clark shows such strong characteristics and real leadership, by the way he plays. His bravery can often boil over into rashness as is shown above by the 9 Yellow cards he picked up last season. He has though shown his defensive capabilities by winning just under half of all challenges both ariely and on the floor, 49% and 48% respectively. That stat is rather pleasing seen as he played in so many different positions at such a young age. One thing that was noticeable even without statistics is the guy’s ability to find a teammate and this is something that McLeish must instil in the team if he is to get the best out of them. All too often last season the Villa defence chose hoof ball over a more refined approach which lead to them being under more pressure than necessary. All in all Clark’s natural leadership qualities and his composed outlook is something that is a massive positive for McLeish.

What can McLeish bring to the table?

In his time as Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish’s philosophy was largely based on a solid defence, and in his defence that is what he brought. His biggest problem though was getting the players he had at his disposal to stick the ball in the net at the other end .Coincidently Aston Villa s Achilles heel last season happened to be their defence. Last season Aston Villa conceded 19 goals from set pieces. This equates to 32.2% of their 59 goals conceded. In comparison Birmingham conceded 14 goals from set pieces 24 % of 58 goals conceded. Birmingham conceded one less goal than Villa last season and also kept 9 clean sheets to Villas.  Last season Villa over the course of 38 games had a first half to second half points differential that doesn’t make pretty reading. 26 goals dropped from a winning position was the most of any team in the premiership. Here is a chart showing a comparison of Aston Villas defensive statistics in relation to Birminghams:

At a quick glance the above stats look quite similar but it is clear to see that Villa were the more active defence last season. Certain stats such as 844 tackles in comparison to 665 for Birmingham and 16 last man tackles as opposed to 7 for Birmingham lead me to believe that the Villa defence were more adept at defending than their Birmingham counterparts but still conceded more goals albeit only a single goal. 13 defensive errors to Birminghams 26 also affirm my consensus that McLeish has in theory more talent to work with at Villa this year.

Considering the defence that Alex McLeish had at his disposal last year and compare it to the defence he will have this year, assuming there are no ins or outs, he worked wonders organising Dann, Johnson, Ridgewell and Carr and it’s fair to think that he will do even better with International standard players like Dunne, Collins, Warnock and Luke Young who last season looked like a quartet that were crying out for direction from the management team at the time which can be highlighted by the reports of training ground disagreements and difference of opinion between three of the afore mentioned Villa defenders and their previous manger/assistant manager. All the stats seem to point to a lack of concentration and more so an obvious lack of organisation on Villas behalf and I believe that if  McLeish can organise them, and cut down the amount of goals conceded from set pieces that we will see the true defensive qualities of the players at Villas disposal and get them back to the standard of 2009/10 where they finished with a defensive record only surpassed by Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool.


The positives that are currently in the Villa squad are clear for all to see, the reason I chose to spell the most obvious ones out in this article are that sometimes after a poor season a feeling of discontent can set in and these positives can all too often be glossed over. Darren Bent has a phenomenal record and statistically is in the top three strikers in the Premier League along with Wayne Rooney and Dider Drogba and his presence in the Villa team provides a constant source of optimism among the fans. Another positive is that Villa have got a depth of young talent in the squad.

Some of these young players are of a sufficient calibre to step in when needed into the set up. Bannan, Albrighton, Clark, Delph, Delfouneso and Lichaj are all more than competent players that McLeish can mould into better players, that given time could form the back bone of the team. These coupled with the belief that, with the utmost of respect, the calibre of player that McLeish now has at his disposal at Villa and his ability to organise a defence and keep clean sheets, will result in an all-round upturn in the fortunes of Aston Villa F.C. for the coming year and show that Alex McLeish has the tools at his disposal to do one ‘Eck of a job and win even the most critical fans around.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here