During manager Paul Lambert’s time at the helm, Aston Villa’s defence, in my opinion, has always been the weakest area of the team. So far this season, it seems to be completely the opposite! The Villans currently have the best defensive record in the Premier League, only conceding one goal – and that was an unfortunate own goal that came in the 3-1 home victory over Hull City.
The defence was strengthened during the summer transfer window with the additions of centre back Phil Senderos and left back Aly Cissokho. The partnership that Senderos and club captain Ron Vlaar have formed at the heart of the Villa defence has shone thus far and will hopefully continue to. There is a clear bond between the two players and they seem, like the rest of the squad, to want to play well for each other, which is great to see. Cissokho has also shown real class since joining the side. The left side of defence is so much stronger than it was at any point in the last two seasons when Bennett, Luna and Bertrand covered that role. Cissokho also adds a threat when attacking since he isn’t scared to get forward but he seems to know when to go for it and when not to, which is encouraging and can be put down to his many years of experience.
This season, we’ve also seen the resurrection of Alan Hutton from the ‘bomb squad’. Hutton has really stepped up his game and I think it is fair to say he’s currently having the best run of form he’s had since signing for Villa under Alex McLeish. He’s shown not only that he can perform to a high standard while wearing claret and blue but that he has a great deal of integrity.
Nathan Baker hadn’t really featured this season until Saturday evening’s brilliant victory over Liverpool, when he came in for the injured Ron Vlaar. Baker was outstanding in that match and deserved to have so many Villa fans naming him man of the match. While it is too early to say that he has turned over a new leaf, Baker has silenced his doubters for now and we live in hope that he will continue to do so.
The defence is finally looking good and is no longer Lambert’s main concern. There are more tough tests ahead and the players’ solidarity will stand the defenders in good sted. Jores Okore is not quite fully fit so we still have the performances of our promising young centre back to look forward to as well.
It looks as though our defence can go from strength to strength this season.