James Chester, despite suffering a broken nose two weeks ago at Brighton, was Villa’s standout defender in Saturday’s win against Cardiff City. Chester’s partner in the center of defense, Nathan Baker, picked up an injury in the first half and was forced to leave the game at halftime, replaced by Tommy Elphick. Chester’s leadership and consistency were instrumental in keeping Cardiff goalless in the second half and helping Elphick return to action with minimal growing pains.
Chester wore a mask Saturday, but almost undoubtably suffered pain throughout the match regardless. While Elphick was expected to be Villa’s defensive leader this season and was named captain before the season began, his performances thus far have been distinctly below average. Chester, however, has steadily improved and is quickly emerging as Villa’s best defender. He served as captain laudably this weekend, and with international quality, better physical attributes, and more poise than Elphick, he is a prime contender to remain captain for the remainder of the season.
Chester has the skills and mentality to become a force for Villa. His skills translate directly to the Premier League, where he was never afforded a full opportunity by West Brom and could thrive with Villa should promotion be achieved. Stable dressing room leadership will be vital for Steve Bruce as the campaign progresses - Chester’s demonstration of fortitude and his ability to lead by example are invaluable developments. Other players will inevitably take note of his grit and toughness and try to do the same, a trend that can only result in good things.