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Vlaar exit would be bad for Aston Villa despite recent form

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Out-of-contract centre back Ron Vlaar indicated yesterday he’s looking for a bigger move. But despite fan opinion, losing him wouldn’t be a good thing for Aston Villa.

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Ron Vlaar, who is out of contract and has been offered a new contract at Aston Villa, told the Mirror yesterday he believes he can "go a step higher."

This, of course, meant the 30-year old Dutch international was mocked on Twitter by Villa fans, who overwhelmingly see no issue with the former club captain leaving for absolutely nothing.

One said he "won’t be hard to replace," while another said he "never rated him," which is almost certainly absolute rubbish.

Regardless, it’s a little annoying how Villa fans are conveniently forgetting how important Vlaar has been to this club over the last three seasons.

I mean, hell, let’s just look at this year. Aston Villa are a Championship side if not for Vlaar’s performances in his 19 Premier League starts.

Don’t believe me? Maybe this table will help:

2014-15 Goals Conceded Points Accumulated Games
Vlaar Starts 1.37 per game 1.11 per game 19
Vlaar DNP 1.61 per game 0.94 per game 18

What does it all mean? It’s pretty clear to me.

Ron Vlaar’s influence on the defence saved Villa one goal every four games he played, and earned the team one point for every six matches played.

And if you needed reminding, the Claret and Blues finished just three points ahead of Hull City, the 18th-placed team, this year.

Going with those figures above, in Vlaar’s 19 starts, he contributed to three more points than a "replacement" defender would have. The difference between survival and relegation.

That’s a pretty brilliant gain to make coming off a year in which the player barely had an offseason.

A quick look at the rest of his Villa career reveals significant contributions in both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

First with 2012-13, his first year at the club…

2012-13 Goals Conceded Points Accumulated Games
Vlaar Starts 1.70 per game 1.19 per game 27
Vlaar DNP 2.09 per game 0.82 per game 11

And then for 2013-14…

2013-14 Goals Conceded Points Accumulated Games
Vlaar Starts 1.56 per game 1.09 per game 32
Vlaar DNP 1.83 per game 0.17 per game 6

As one should easily be able to see, not only have Villa lineups with Vlaar been a significant improvement on those without him each season, but the club’s defensive marks have also gotten better with him every year, dropping from 1.70 goals per game conceded two seasons ago to 1.37 this year.

In his maiden season, he had a similar impact to this year — as lineups with Vlaar netted roughly 3 more points for every 8 games played, the skipper helped contribute an additional 10 points to the campaign. Even accounting for the small sample of games (11) he didn’t play, it’s hard to argue the club wouldn’t have gone down in Paul Lambert’s first year without the Dutchman’s contribution.

To get the largest possible sample size, it’s worth taking one more look at a table, this time at the composite one for all three of his seasons at Villa Park.

Villa Career Goals Conceded Points Accumulated Games
Vlaar Starts 1.56 per game 1.09 per game 32
Vlaar DNP 1.80 per game 0.17 per game 35

It hasn’t wavered over three seasons; Villa have been better with Ron Vlaar in the starting XI than they have been without him.

And look, I completely understand why fans are ready to move on. In truth, I’d love to see Ciaran Clark and Jores Okore get an extended period of time working together as the first-choice centre back pairing.

But like Vlaar, neither of them are players with a knack for staying healthy throughout a season. Irrespective of everything else, Tim Sherwood can’t count on either of those guys to keep off the training table for a significant part of the season.

Youth is good, playing it is good, and Vlaar didn’t particularly have a great end to a 21-month stretch in which he had about two weeks away from football. Our recent memories of his play aren’t necessarily great.

But after looking at the numbers, can you really still be happy if he walks away from the club?