The Marc of our squad

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Albrighton come through Villa's youth setup.

The Villans will travel to Leicester on Sunday as the Premier League returns after the international break. The Foxes are flying at the moment, unbeaten in their opening four matches and carrying on where they left off at the end of the previous campaign. A change of manager doesn’t seem to have upset the apple cart at all, as the likeable Claudio Ranieri has continued to get the best out of Leicester’s players and has made some decent additions to boot. I do not think a relegation battle will be on the cards for Ranieri’s team this season, although, as we found out after a good start to last season, these things can change!

A key player at the back end of last season for then Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson was former Villa academy graduate Marc Albrighton. In fact, when he came into their side results started to turn and they went on their incredible run. Albrighton has started this season in incredible fashion as well, with a goal and three assists in the opening four games. Albrighton looks to be back to the form he enjoyed when he burst on to the scene for Aston Villa in the 2010-11 season.

Albrighton’s first season was an undoubted success: six goals in thirty-seven appearances is a healthy return for a wide player. After fast becoming a fans’ favorite, Albrighton fell away in the following seasons when a mixture of playing in a poor side, injuries and a loss of confidence led to his downfall. The more attacking football of Gerard Houiller suited ‘Super Marc’ whereas Alex McLeish and Paul Lambert’s general preference for safety first football never really suited the Tamworth-born winger.

Something that was unthinkable a few years ago has been mentioned in the last few weeks – an England call-up – but would Albrighton get near the Villa team nowadays?

Last season I think he could definitely have been utilised, especially when Tim Sherwood took over. Albrighton is very much a confidence player and the kind of player I could imagine Sherwood getting the best out of. You only have to look at the marked improvement in Cleverley’s game when the shackles came off. He strikes me as another confidence player and Sherwood certainly revitalised him.

The positions behind the central striker have been a problem for Aston Villa over the last few seasons. I believe that is now a thing of the past and, arguably, now our strongest area. If we were to line up with a 4-2-3-1 formation, I think that, currently, Sinclair, Grealish and possibly Traore would be the most dangerous three to operate behind the central striker. We also have Gil, Ayew, Bacuna and Cole to come in. That is without mentioning the fact that Agbonlahor, at a push, can play wide and that N’Zogbia is still registered with us. That is incredible depth, especially after seasons of square pegs in round holes in these positions.

It seems strange to say but I genuinely don’t believe that one of the Premier League’s form players would get into our team: Albrighton would be a good squad option for us but no more than that, in my opinion. The Foxes may well finish above us, with Albrighton having a stellar season, but I think at the moment he is benefitting from playing in a settled team that is high on confidence. The Villans are yet to find their rhythm, which is understandable given the number of new faces in our squad. What this has made me realise is that I am very excited about our options and the direction our squad is heading in.

Aston Villa Football Club has made progress with the squad already this campaign. For the first time in what feels like eternity we have options and as the season goes on I think that we will be wondering what damage our players can do rather than fretting over how the opposition can exploit potential weaknesses in our side.

I like to see any academy graduate who came through at Villa do well. Many go on to have good careers after being released like Steven Davis and Peter Whittingham. Others, like Gary Cahill, come back to haunt us. I don’t believe Albrighton will ever fit into the Cahill category. He will probably be more like the first two players mentioned. He is definitely having a purple patch and will be a dangerous player who the Villa boys will need to contain on Sunday.

It was terrible business to lose Marc Albrighton on a free but, thanks to Tim Sherwood, I don’t think it will be a loss that we will look back on with major regrets.

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My name’s Dan Bardell. I’m 29 and I sit in the Upper Holte with my dad. This is our 22nd year as season ticket holders.

My favourite ever players are Ian Taylor, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Gareth Barry, Olof Mellberg, Martin Laursen and Stan Petrov.

My current favorites are Westwood, Clark and Grealish.

Feel free to comment or follow me on twitter: @danbardell

5 COMMENTS

  1. Albrighton wouldn’t get in your current side.

    Really… Let’s hope you don’t find your rhythm Sunday and Marc confirms what you are missing.

    • Thanks for that, means a lot.

      I will always follow Albrighton’s career, respect him for the fact he did something I would love to have done, gone from fan to player at his boyhood Club.

      I hope he keeps up his form for you, I don’t see either side being in a massive relegation fight this campaign. You are a well run Club, no reason why you can’t establish yourselves. Big teams are yet to sniff around your best players as well, which is always handy for a Club looking to build.

  2. Hi Dan, Leicester fan here and I wanted to credit you on a great article with some wonderfully observed and unbiased talking points. It’s great to read a footballing article written by someone with their head screwed on; compared with the mindless pieces written by folk who have no idea about the opposition besides their geographical location (and therefore we must hate them).

    I was surprised when Villa let Albrighton go and Leicester managed to sign him but I think you’re totally right in saying that he’s a confidence player. Nigel Pearson managed to utilised his strengths quite well and we’ve adjusted to a system where we can use him effectively. I feel Leicester’s form has started to dip ever so slightly by relying too much on a counter-attack game. I’d like to see us hold the ball a bit better before picking out a killer pass.

    Anyway, just wanted to show my appreciation for this piece. I think Villa will do well under Sherwood and I hope he’s there for the long term to build on what is already a good team. Here’s to a fantastic spectacle on Sunday.

    Good luck for the rest of the season,
    Ash

  3. I disagree about Albrighton not being in the Cahill category although there was a point before he left Villa that I thought he was another accademy graduate that would fall by the wayside . That was not because I did not think he had the ability but rather that I wondered about his medical fitness, but that is difficult to judge by one looking on from the sidelines . But away from the over inflated expectations @ Villa Marc seems to have overcome his problems and could progress to being another player we should never have allowed to leave .

  4. I have to echo what has been said already on here. It’s a shame when ‘one of our own’ can’t make it here. To his credit he’s gone on leaps and bounds. Although I think he could offer something to our team (his deliveries are just what Gestede would thrive on) I think his limitations would mean he wouldn’t be a permanent starter. For the system & the way we play we need wingers that can commit people and are basically number 10’s in wider roles that can interchange. Grealish & Gil fit the bill. The only real out and out winger we have in the squad is Traore & when he is fit, I see him as a nailed on starter for the right flank, Sinclair is our top scorer on the left and you have to find place for our most creative player in Grealish so it would be difficult to see where Albrighton would fit in aside from in certain games or periods when we need to over load the opposition with balls into the box.

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