There's no Defense!
Nobody will deny, the goals against Villa this season are going to send us down, but who is to blame? We can look around the Villa team and see areas with a lack of experience in their positions. Villa have Gana, Veretout, Ayew, Amavi, Okore, and more, but one area we have experience is defense. We look at Guzan, Hutton, Richards, Lescott, Clark, and Richardson, and we have 1490 games at a Premier or Championship level. If that is the case, then why are conceding 2 goals per game in the Premier League?
Over the years, through my coaching experience, to have a strong defense, you need a decent and vocal goalkeeper, and two well organized central defenders. One of those defenders, needs to be able read the game extremely well, and take charge of the defense. Have Villa got that?
I think Guzan has shown enough in the past, he is a very good keeper. He has made a few mistakes this year, but with such a lack of confidence in your defense, who would blame him.
As we look at the central pairings that have been used over a number of games this season, we have:
Richards & Clark (8 games, conceding 1.75 goals per game)
Richards & Lescott (7 games, conceding 2 goals per game)
Okore & Lescott (4 games, conceding 1.25 per game)
We can say, certain pairings may have played against stronger opposition, but in the end we have to make the decision, certain pairings may just not work. I look back at the games throughout the season, and so many goals have been conceded by poor positioning, or players not attacking the ball while it's in the air.
The two goals against Norwich, Richards wasn't close enough, and didn't challenge Howson. Richardson, marking nobody, doesn't close down Mbokani Bezua, as the ball floats over Clark's head. Is this down to the manager’s instructions? Or are our players just that bad or just can't give a rat's ass.
The confidence maybe low, and a win may change things, but I feel a lot of the blame falls on our captain. Clark has made a couple of mistakes, and Lescott is a lot slower these days, but our captain's ability to control the defense is the major problem.
Richards is awesome at challenging for a long ball in the air, or challenging a forward as he receives a ball with his back to goal. Sadly, his wanting to charge up field, and lack of defensive awareness is killing us. If he had been in charge of the Titanic, it would have sank long before it hit the iceberg.
All the other three defenders, should position themselves off Richards. Defending is a lot about positioning and angles, and not just how strong you may be in the challenge. I have worked with flat back fours for over twenty years, and the only time Villa's defense has looked right is when Richard's hasn't been there. I'm not saying Richards shouldn't be one of our central defenders, I'm just saying he shouldn't be the one controlling it. 1490 games between them, and we looked like they have never played a flat back four before. I am not exonerating the rest of the players for their part, but when you don't have a leader you can rely on, then players start to do their own thing, and it all falls apart.
I'm not blaming Richards for, Lescott's slowness, or Clark's naivety, or Richardson's lack of ability to attack a ball, but I blame him for not being the lighthouse to keep everyone safe. People claimed, he was going to be an England regular for years to come at the age of 17, but his career flounder at Man City. He played with Lescott there, and formed a strong partnership, and friendship, sadly that partnership is now failing because Richards is the leader. I believe the Lescott partnership could be the one that brings a holt to the flow of goals, but only if Richards takes a step back, and hand over the reins to his friend.
I believe if Richards isn't willing to do that, then it has been shown in recent weeks that Okore is.