It’s been reported in some media quarters that Steve Bruce spoke of his regret this week in regards to losing Jordan Amavi in the summer. However, his replacement Neil Taylor deserves some credit for the job he is doing when you dig a little deeper and look at his record in claret and blue.
When Aston Villa signed the Welshman from Swansea City, it’s fair to say that Twitter was awash with comments regarding a lack of ambition and doubt as to whether he was a suitable replacement.
Rewind back to the arrival of Jordan Amavi. He arrived from OGC Nice with a reputation as one of the hottest prospects in European football in regards to his position of left-back. Initially, upon arrival, we saw pace and an ambition to bomb forward and whip in crosses to the front men. Games away at Liverpool and of course the League Cup tie at home to Birmingham City were key examples of the crossing abilities that Amavi has.
However, an unfortunate and serious injury whilst on duty for France U21’s meant Amavi wouldn’t be seen for a while and although the rest of the side didn’t perform, his return didn’t fare as well as his initial introduction.
Steve Bruce had his hands tied and the FFP regulations meant players like Amavi were hard to keep and he is now rediscovering his form and consistency at a rejuvenated Olympique Marseille who are fighting to get back within the top few sides within his native France.
When Villa signed Neil Taylor in January 2017, he arrived with a lack of game time and match fitness. Both highlighted by Bruce at the time. He became a regular at left-back and he has worked hard to become the number one in that position although it could be argued he is our only recognised player within the position. I’ve actually been a big fan of Neil Taylor since his arrival and although he wouldn’t be the most extravagant name to grace a team sheet, what he does deliver is a consistency within one of our most troublesome positions during our recent history.
Taylor has clocked up 15 league appearances this season, playing the full match in all but for 9 minutes against Ipswich Town when substituted and 1 minute of added time after being sent off against a feisty Bolton Wanderers side.
Taylor did miss losses to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday meaning the last loss suffered by Taylor was back in mid-August when the team as a whole looked vulnerable, to say the least. Following those defeats away to Cardiff City and Reading respectively, Aston Villa’s record since then when Neil Taylor has played stands as 8 wins and 4 draws in 12 games, including six clean sheets.
It goes without saying that it is a team effort and collectively we as fans feel that there is a strong team bond that has been all too absent for a long time but it’s equally as important to recognise the efforts of individuals to add into the fold.
On Friday night, Taylor won the ball and made 5 successful clearances as well as 1 key interception and 2 key tackles. But most noticeable was the determination and bravery shown in the double tackle he made when rushing forwards into the centre of the park, which turned out to lead to Henri Lansbury’s equaliser and first for Aston Villa. Taylor was left hurt as centre-half Pontus Jansson was late into the challenge but it’s exactly the kind of tackle that we didn’t see from the likes of those that got us relegated.
Another big worry was how Taylor would react following the challenge back in the World Cup Qualifiers in March that broke Everton and Republic of Ireland right-back Seamus Coleman’s leg. The personal attacks on social media and by some on phone-ins were harsh and many questioned whether Taylor would be able to keep playing to a high standard without being affected.
In Taylor, we have a left-back that isn’t afraid to make a tackle and will hold his own. I could go on to list players that have played or simply ‘filled in’ that position but we should just be grateful of the determination and consistency that Neil Taylor is giving us and long may it continue.