Aston Villa have been treading water for a long time in regards to their defensive depth. Any single injury to a full-back or centre-back would have seen them endure a small-scale crisis. What’s more, poor form at the goalkeeping position has ensured Villa carry a holistic defensive problem into each game.
If the goalkeeper steps up, then it’s usually a defender that lets him down. If the defense step up, the goalkeeper can be caught out. Axel Tuanzebe is an improvement over any other centre-back that could have partnered James Chester. Villa brought a loaned a new goalkeeper, bought a new goalkeeper, signed a new goalkeeping coach and then purchased another new goalkeeper. Villa’s defensive issues are a heavy frustration, and it’s not for a wont of trying. The area has been invested in, but that doesn’t seem to have done much - and with Tommy Elphick leaving and succeeding on loan to Hull City, Villa’s depth remains shallow. Any single injury, as stated, would be a huge issue.
Funnily enough, Axel Tuanzebe (on loan from Manchester United) has picked up a broken foot. This leaves 3 fit bodies in the senior picture to take up 2 positions. One is James Chester, one is the trainee centre-half James Bree and the other is youngster Dominic Revan. Villa have 2 games coming up before the New Year is brought in with a home match against QPR and it’s looking likely that Villa’s back-four will see zero rotation through that period. The best that Villa can hope for now is that a deal to bring in a centre-back is sealed before the QPR game or that James Bree is now treated and trained as Villa’s second-choice centre-back. Neither are ideal, and neither can be rushed - but can Villa wait around?
With the immense Lovre Kalinic coming in to claim Villa’s number-one shirt, one issue may be solved. The others? It will either rely on incredible luck, incredible transfer business, or incredible coaching. James Bree has become the deputy at two positions, and any further injury to a Villa defender will bring a crisis to Dean Smith’s door.