Defence vs attack is always an interesting debate, both important areas, but which do you see as being the key this season? This week I have had a good look at what we have on both fronts and how we could line up and it’s still causing me headaches.
Now one thing I will say before going into each area is that this is not one of those posts where you pick your starting eleven and post a map on every social media page. They drive me mad and having seen one this week entitled “Aston Villa all time best XI” which didn’t include any of the European Cup team of 82′ other than Jimmy Rimmer, I rest my case. I loved Juan Pablo Angel, but come on …
James Chester was one of the positives to come out of last season. A steady, combative defender who led by example after the disappointing string of performances by Tommy Elphick. With all media fronts pointing to a certain Mr Terry arriving in the coming days, we have two players with a strong experience of leading others and would seem a fantastic pairing. Remember, we are in the Championship.
Then there is Nathan Baker. Some will argue he is prone to a mistake but personally, I feel he was one of the most improved defenders over the course of the season. Alongside Chester, we had a formidable defence.
Neil Taylor arrived and judging the comments on Twitter, was a catastrophic signing at the time. I strongly believe he was a solid addition. Not a flair name and okay, not an exciting player, but he showed consistency at left back, something we haven’t seen in a long time. Assuming Jordan Amavi will depart, the position is one that Taylor should comfortably hold.
As for right back, do I need to say anymore? The Scottish Cafu. Born in Glasgow although legend has it he was brought up in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and tackled his way to a professional career in the U.K. He showed the fight and spirit last season that was all too absent in our dismal relegation season.
However, I do want to add that this season is not one for sentiment and ‘names over performances’. Bruce could face a challenge with the defence. Does he play three across the back? Does he play a flat four meaning one of the centre backs misses out? However he shapes the defence, I would hope that players like James Bree would be given a fair chance to stake a claim for a regular spot should the opportunity arise.
I will leave out goalkeepers in this as it’s still confusing as to who we will actually have that can play between the sticks. I always include the keepers when talking about defence but right now we’ll sit it out and see if it will be Ruddy, Bunn, Steer or maybe Buffon will do a JT! (One can dream!)
Moving on to the opposite end of the pitch or as Bruce often sets his teams out, the opposite end of our own half, the attack. Jonathan Kodjia is a given starter. His goals and awkwardness for defenders make him an obvious threat. I would say that it would be nice to see him providing more regularly for others as we saw a few times last season that he had better options than to shoot at goal.
Scott Hogan is still relatively new to the club and after a pre-season, he may be the surprise package in our new kit (not a fan of the sponsor by the way!) He makes clever runs and can be a real handful if the delivery is good.
Ross McCormack has gone on the pre-season training tour to Portugal, meaning his gates must be fixed and all joking aside, I’m one of those who believes he can still have a good career in claret and blue. Last season was definitely one to forget but a goal or two early on could be the medicine that more than the doctor prescribed.
Gabby. Love him or hate him, hero or villain, he isn’t going anywhere and Bruce still thinks there is something there. Although I think he’ll be a bench at best option.
Finally, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy. A lot of fans were puzzled as to when he would be given a chance last season. Injuries and the contract saga meant we didn’t really see him but for a couple of cameos. The lad obviously loves Villa and has a refreshing self-confidence. Will he be the man the gaffer turns to?
The argument over which area is most important could be swayed by our midfield. Mile Jedinak was solid and added to our defence with determined, fighting performances each week. But apart from him, I have found it hard to really say much about the midfield. I’m a huge Andre Green fan but I still have a suspicion that he will not be a regular in the Bruce formation. Grealish, Lansbury, Hourihane, Gardner, Bacuna, Adomah etc. Between them were a lot of underwhelming performances and some struggled to get a game. Granted, Adomah picked up a lot of assists but again he seems to be a bit of a ‘marmite’ player amongst the supporters.
In conclusion, we need a collective set of performances over the course of the campaign. Bruce will be the one making the decisions and ultimately will be praised or berated for the results and style of play. So I’ll leave you with this debate, defence, attack or the other lot, the midfield. Forgetting the importance of consistent, collective performances, which one of the three areas do you think will be the key to us improving and hopefully giving us a realistic chance of promotion be it automatically or through the playoffs.