Now that Micah Richards has officially joined Aston Villa, we thought it might be time to do a bit of digging into what we can expect. Luckily, SB Nation has Viola Nation, an absolutely fantastic Fiorentina blog, and since Richards spent last season plying his trade in Serie A at the club, I asked them about the defender. Lorenzo Landini was kind enough to answer our questions.
7500 to Holte: I've heard a lot of people who watch Serie A saying that Richards was pretty terrible last season. I've also seen plenty of Manchester City fans saying that they understand him leaving, but are sad to see him go. How do you rate Richards from what you saw of him?
Lorenzo Landini: I wouldn't go so far as to call him "terrible." He definitely had a couple high-profile bad games at a key time in the second half of the season, and he missed most of the first half of the season due to injury and our use of the 3-5-2. But he also had at least two exceptional games for Fiorentina, against Juventus in Turin and away in Greece in the Europa League. More than anything I think Micah Richards' technical and tactical limitations made him nearly useless in a team that played the pseudo tiki taka that Vincenzo Montella got the team to play for the past 3 years in Florence. It was always a slightly bizarre addition to me, as Richards' game is so all-action, based on pace and athleticism, whereas Fiorentina were doing something much more cerebral most of the time.
Rumour has it that Tim Sherwood is considering Richards as a CB. I know he played both there and RB at Fiorentina. Which do you think he's better at?
I think he is approximately 4,589% better at right back, although we barely saw him at center back at Fiorentina, and those few occasions were in a 3 man back line. Give Richards a straight line to dominate, or a single player to match up against and mark, and he'll be fine. His very - pardon me - English to desire to get in the mix and get the ball wherever it might be could prove disastrous as a central defender in a 4-4-2.
In what situations did Richards do best?
He rarely loses out 1 v 1, and has the power and technique to win the ball and spark the break. He's also relatively good in the air. He likes to burst into the box, but his finishing is a defender's.
Finally, what is Richard's biggest weakness as a player?
As I have alluded to above, Richards is a player who will not shy away from a battle, but can be exposed when he has to think too much. The only lasting stereotype about Italian football that I will endorse is that the tactical side of the game is much more important in Serie A than it is in England or La Liga (it definitely is). His tactical IQ is very low. The best illustration is the first Napoli goal against Fiorentina from this spring, where yes, the midfielder is late to shift over and help, but Richards doesn't realize that he is in a 1 v 1.
He clearly isn't sure of his "role" in the defense at the moment and is trying to be tactically disciplined but ends up retreating to nowhere while giving Dries Mertens his own area code from which to line up a shot. I don't think he would overthink such a decision back in England, but he might if he has to learn how to play as a central defender.
Thanks again to Lorenzo for taking the time to help us. As for the Villa fans, what do you think? Are we still sold on this signing?