Defense Wins Trophies: A Look At The Back Of Aston Villa

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - APRIL 25: Richard Dunne, after being turned into a zombie, beats a Scum in the Second City Derby while Carlos Cuellar looks on in admiration. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

No, we have yet to win a trophy recently) (But it could happen)

I'm not much for stats (which may surprise some of you). In baseball I can see how they might help to predict a player's future performance (although I needed private tutoring to get up to speed) but in football, I just can't see that the stats we have available are useful in showing what will happen next.

Now that I've got that off my chest (along with that Acorns logo) I'm going to promise to lay off the parentheticals, ignore the stats and just give you a quick run-down on the defense that, for much of the season, many considered the best in the Premier League. Which I'm sure they determined by statistical analysis. I determined it by watching Richard Dunne play.

Goalkeeper:

Brad Friedel: Our obvious number one. Don't believe the rumors that Brad 1.0 is heading off to Fulham. While he has played under Mark Hughes before, at Blackburn, it seems to me that Friedel wants to play his football at the highest level possible and, in addition to being a great keeper, Friedel is an athlete with integrity. Which is important, because although our second-choice keeper is adequate, there's a fairly noticeable drop in quality between the two. Brad 1.0 keeps up excellent communication with the back line-you rarely see defenders getting in his way-and rarely gets caught wrong-footed. For our final line of defense, Villa could do much worse than to have Brad Friedel guarding the net.

Brad Guzan: You guessed it, Brad 2.0. The two Brads even look similar, although the second Brad is only 25, a complete baby in goalkeeper terms. Guzan is the third-choice keeper for the U.S. Men's National Team, but on Villa he stays in front of Elliot Parish. The less-bald Brad will likely be the one in goal during the early stages of cup play as well as in the Europa League.

Elliot Parish: This man exists. Cross your fingers we won't see him.

(Defenders after the jump)

Defense:

Stephen Warnock: Did you know Warnock went to the World Cup this year? Yeah, I'd forgotten about it too. One of the three defenders Villa brought in last year, Warnock might not be truly world-class, but he's certainly one of the better defenders in the league. Rather than focusing on getting forward, Warnock concentrates on defending, knowing that Villa's wingers will make great use of the space afforded them on the left side of the field.

James Collins: The center half pairing of Richard Dunne and James Collins has been extremely successful. The Welsh international has often been overshadowed by the star that is Dunne, but Collins' cool and composed manner gives a definite air of dependability to the Villa backline. He and Friedel also seem to have great communication, which certainly helps when keeping a tight defense. Collins' needs to recover from his calf strain post-haste.

Richard Dunne: Warning: insults or even light-hearted jokes about Dunney will not be taken well in these parts. Even trying to reassure-such as telling me he was removed from the field as a precaution-will result in me biting your head off. You have been warned. After Manchester City decided that they only dealt in ‘big names' last year, Dunne joined the Villa and was one of the biggest contributions to the squad, even earning the Players' Player of the Year Award. Villa's vice-captain was a solid, dependable presence in the back last season, confidently tackling opposing players in the area and often coming forward to get his big head on the ball during set pieces.

Carlos Cuellar: Prior to arriving at Villa Park, the Spaniard had really only played in central defense, but Martin O'Neill moved him out to right back to cover for Luke Young last season. Cuellar is absolutely capable in defense, but when he's going forward, he's not much of a threat. I'd like to see Cuellar back in the middle, especially with Collins hurt. When Collins recovers, Cuellar will make a more-than-adequate back up defender.

Luke Young: L Young didn't get much playing time last season, due to a combination of injury and personal tragedy. When he was ready to come back, Carlos Cuellar was in the right back role. So now L Young is being paid something like £250,000 to sit on the bench. While I don't agree with wasting money, I also don't agree with playing a simply adequate defender just to have him earn his pay. L Young can get forward but is only average at the actual defense part. And his eyes are terrifying.

Habib Beye: Brought in before the defensive signings of last year were made. With Cuellar in the starting right back role, and Luke Young at back up, we rarely see Beye, except in preseason. Where I really was not impressed, as Beye made some clumsy tackles and was too easily drawn out of position. I would much rather see Lichaj playing over Beye.

Curtis Davies: Another defender passed over by Martin O'Neill, Davies made his frustrations known to the press. But considering he left the field on crutches a couple weeks ago and is nursing a knee injury, there's no guarantee Davies will have a shot. He's sitting behind Collins, Dunne, and hopefully Carlos Cuellar. But he is absolutely adored by the AVFC Official Snapper, so there's that.

Ciaran Clark: Another vying for a position at center half, Clark will likely see more action in the reserves, but will also probably be seen on the bench. He's been a decent force in the reserve leagues and makes a good, if freckly, backup man.

Eric Lichaj: Just signed a three-year contract and has been superb in pre-season. While many wonder if he will get a run out due to his age, I say there's nothing wrong with playing a 21 year old who can get forward with a bit of a threat, defend well, and not make any major mistakes.

What I'd Like To See Saturday:

I want to see a backline of Stephen Warnock, Carlos Cuellar, Richard Dunne and Eric Lichaj. Kevin MacDonald should know enough about Lichaj's skills to know whether he's worth taking a risk on for the match against West Ham. What I don't want to see is Cuellar on the right and Clark in the middle. I would accept Luke Young on the right, but won't be excited about it.

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