Whenever a team allows 17 goals in the space of four games, there will be questions about the defense. When that kind of performance is turned in just before the opening of the transfer window, those questions are sure to morph into calls to action. There are some pretty major concerns regarding the ability of Aston Villa's ability to prevent goals, and for pretty clear reasons. Villa's strong defensive showing ahead of the nightmare run set off by the 8-0 loss to Chelsea never felt as though it was particularly sustainable,
There's been a distinct lack of robustness to the back line since Ron Vlaar was forced off against Arsenal due to injury on November 24th, but even prior to the loss of the concrete one nearly a month and a half ago there was legitimate concern about the ability of Villa's central midfield corps to provide adequate protection for the back line. Barry Bannan, Ashley Westwood, Karim El Ahmadi, Brett Holman and Fabian Delph all have things to bring to the table, but none of them really fit the bill of "destroyer" and given this squad's shortcomings in other aspects of the game that's a bit of a problem.
This poses something of a quandary. There's little doubt that Villa need some help both in terms of shoring up the back line and adding a bit of grit to the center of midfield, but Paul Lambert is almost certain to be working within a budget and it's not as though there aren't other aspects of the side in need of strengthening. Given those constraints, it makes more than a little sense to maximize the impact of any investment.
With that in mind, let's consider Ciaran Clark. The Villa defender has made some very impressive strides this season, and though it's clear that he's still got some growing to do he's been on the balance of things a bright spot so far. Given that Clark has put in a significant amount of time in midfield over the course of the past two seasons and that he is clearly a much better player now than at any time in the past, it's tempting to wonder what he would be capable of in the much-needed destroyer role in the center of the park. Unfortunately, Villa's lack of depth in defense has made that conversation something of a non-starter.
But with an opportunity now for Paul Lambert to bolster to back line, a shift back to midfield is somewhat plausible. It's far from a perfect solution as Clark seems more at home in defense and isn't exactly a prototypical midfielder, but given the circumstances it's at the very least an intriguing option. With Premier League survival the primary goal of this season asking for perfection is a bit over the top. If the most prudent available upgrade is to defense, Lambert should be ready to take advantage of Clark's past experience in order to make the most of a limited squad.