Aston Villa has released their squad numbers for the upcoming season and has disguised the news of who will be wearing what number with their "kit builder" "technology". I don't know, I thought teams had been allowing fans to build their own custom kit for years. Kit Builder seems like the Dippin' Dots of jersey technology.
But I digress - this news is important. There are quite a few changes this year and they are telling ones. For those who might be unfamiliar with kit numbers and why they're an annual point of interest here's a quick rundown of what they mean. The player who gets the 1 shirt is going to be your top keeper. The players wearing 2-6 are generally your best defenders. Your number 9 is your best forward. Your 10 is going to be your playmaker. Players with numbers in the top 11 are, very generally speaking, your first team.
There are certainly exceptions to this and none of that is set in stone. Kit numbers originally matched the position that the player wearing it was playing on the pitch. Jurgen Klinsmann used that system with the US Men's National Team giving each player the number of the position they're playing in a given match. For an exception, you'll notice Christian Benteke, clearly Aston Villa's best forward, is again wearing number 20.
Let's go ahead and make this easy on the eyes. Here's what I think is important:
The First Eleven Numbers
Brad Guzan claims the 1 shirt this year and that's the least surprising news of this whole release. Nathan Baker, Joe Bennett, Ron Vlaar, Jores Okore, and Ciaran Clark round out the 2-6 shirts in that order. Leandro Bacuna gets the 7 in his first season with the club. Karim El Ahmadi hangs on to the 8 shirt which means he's still got a shot to see some playing time under Paul Lambert. Newcomer Nicklas Helenius gets the coveted number 9 shirt which has to be quite an honor for the young man. Andi Weimann takes over the 10 this year after wearing 26 for the past few seasons. Gabby Agbonlahor will wear his customary 11. As I mentioned, Benteke will continue to wear 20 at his own request.
The Rest Of the Squad
This is where it gets interesting. Jed Steer getting number 13 means he's going to be the backup keeper. Ashley Westwood and Fabian Delph keep their same numbers at 15 and 16. I think we all expect them to play a lot this season, especially Westwood who has quickly become a stalwart in the center of the midfield. Another newcomer in Antonio Luna aka Tony Moon will be wearing 14. Gary Gardner will look to complete a long road back to health while wearing Guzan's old 22. Aleksander Tonev will don 24, Yacouba Sylla 18, and Matt Lowton will wear his usual 34. Despite Lowton's high number everyone knows he'll be playing right back every single game unless he's hurt.
Also of note, Marc Albrighton hangs on to the 12 shirt. I still wonder if he can build on the promise he showed a couple of seasons ago. No one is counting on it but it's good to see he hasn't been completely frozen out yet. if Villa get anything from Marc Albrighton this season it would be a nice bonus and he's certainly one of the easiest players to cheer for.
The Motley Crew
This is where I had my biggest laugh. It's not difficult to read between the lines when you get to the end of the squad list for the season. High earners Shay Given (35), Charles N"Zogbia (36), Darren Bent (39), Stephen Ireland (40), Alan Hutton (41), and Barry Bannan (42) have been told to move on and find new teams. Handing them these numbers is about as symbolic a gesture there is. It's all but a guarantee that none of these players will ever play for Villa again.
Paul Lambert has never been shy about letting players know if they're in his plans or not. You'll remember he famously froze out Hutton and Stephen Warnock immediately upon his arrival as Villa boss. No one freezes players out quite like Paul Lambert and it'll be a relief to see these players all move on with their football careers away from Villa Park.
The Best For Last
In a great gesture by the club, it appears that the number 19 is unavailable for anyone to use. It sounds like it has been retired in honor of Stiliyan Petrov who was forced into retirement after being diagnosed with leukemia.
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