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The case for the defence


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TrentVilla writes:

The issue of our defence is a tricky one and one I think that could almost be a thread on its own but seeing as its being discussed here I will contribute my views.

There can be little dispute that in the latter stages of the season our defence was poor and at times hopeless, we conceeded too many goals and gave away points and the loss of Laursen was a significant contributing factor towards this alarming end of season form. I would though argue that the defence was relatively poor all season even before its central and most important figure was removed. Which leaves the question, why?

First though lets get this in perspective, the defence wasn't terrible, far from it in fact. You don't finish 6th with a terrible defence. However in the summer with the captures of Friedel, Ceullar, Shorey and Young I think it is fair to say we all expected it to preform better as a unit.

I still feel the injury to Bouma was as significant a blow if not more of a blow than the injury to Laursen as it forced O'Neill's hand and required what by his standards was a rather rushed signing which he may or may not have made but for the injury. At the time I think the general consensus on here was that Shorey was the best solution to our problems and though many felt we would miss out due O'Neill's supposed caution in the market we got our man.

The subsequent failure of Shorey to find his feet in the side and O'Neill's perhaps rash decision to drop him, like the injury to Bouma before it threw our defensive plans into chaos. I have long argued that the club should have had more fullbacks on the books and O'Neill is at fault here but we didn't and as a result Young was switched to LB and once again our unit was dissolved.

With no other RB on the books (again something I blame O'Neill for) Ceullar a promising but inexperienced CB in the Premier League was shoe horned in at RB where he struggled while NRC, Gardner and even Milner tried and failed to provide balance to the defence.

Ultimately Ceullar's form suffered and his first season has left many questionning his ability, yet I still believe he is a player who will go on to prove people wrong. Meanwhile Davies performed well until injury and the loss of Laursen destroyed his season and many peoples faith in him as a player. Oh how quickly the worm turns! Yet he never has and never will be a bad player and I believe this will be proved in future years.

So without a doubt there have been many issues surrounding our defence this season but I maintain you can't finish 6th with a poor defence and we don't have a poor defence even if at times they defended poorly. The money O'Neill spent last summer largely was in my view money well spent even if Shorey hasn't worked out. The circumstances that led to his signing justified the purchase and as I stated most saw it as good business at the time.

O'Neill has made mistakes, I don't dispute that for one moment especially tactically but critically for me his biggest mistake and the one that cost us was not having two more fullbacks on the books. Something I believe could and should have been resolved last summer and must be this summer. If it had I think the defensive unit would have been far more secure.

However, I also think he has been hugely unfortunate, unfortunate that Bouma broke his ankle, that Shorey failed to settle and unfortunate that his main man Laursen got injured at such a key time and that Davies was carrying an injury at the same time.

So in conclusion while I lay some blame at the feet of O'Neill its more for the players he didn't sign than those he did and I also think far too many are being far too harsh on him. If Everton had lost Jagielka and Lescott like we did Bouma and Laursen how well do people think they would have coped?

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Pretty much agree with all of that. Bouma injured, Young out of place, Laursen injured and yet we still challenge the CL places well into March. People wonder how we'd do if we were hit by injury. Well it's fair to say we were hit by injury and we did OK considering. I also agree that it's not so much what MON does as what he doesn't do. I was one of those who thought signing Shorey made sense and was also one who was quite quick to notice he was a defensive liability for all the attacking nouse he gave us in comparison to Bouma. But it was good to see that at the tail end of the season he was given a 2nd chance with Young on the right again. I also think Cuéllar will turn out to be a very good signing. As for people being too harsh on O'Neill. I agree that they are. Though I think this summer is the biggest of his Villa career. If he doesn't deliver now then I think the chance is gone and I will probably become a dissenting voice too. But let's just wait and see what happens. We certainly need a helluva centre back in soon though.

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I agree totally in the main, except about Cuellar. People will hit me with the old argument look at Petrov when he first come and look at him now. Petrov has changed because of a change of position from attacking midfielder to holding midfielder. BUT even in his first dodgy and second very average season there was snippets of a decent player for all to see. I dont see this with Cuellar, whether watching him in his favoured CB role or at RB when he has rather unfortunately been played out of position. He cant pass, has a head like a Sherriffs badge ( when he wins a header ) and his positioning is suspect. We were spoilt with ML, CC is a poor poor replacement at CB, hope im wrong like many were about Petrov, BUT i think in this case i wont be.

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I think Trent has given a good end of term report on the defence. The problems started and finished with injuries to key players.

As for Shorey I was very disappointed with the way he was very publicly dropped after a couple of poor games and then the fans roundly slagged him off on the various forums. Meanwhile Gabby was given a hat full of games to prove how out of form he was. Shorey is not as good defensively as Bouma but he is outstanding going forward and is one of the best passers in the side. I felt he came good at the end of the season.

I disagree with doj1968 on Cuellar. He came to a new club and was played out of position and struggled. I think he will come good, not as a replacement for Laursen but a valuable member of the squad as an either / or with Davies and a new centre back.

As for the full back situation, we simply cannot carry on with the mix and match. We did it with Mellberg two seasons ago and however good a player we all thing he is a full back he was not.

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We did it with Mellberg two seasons ago and however good a player we all thing he is a full back he was not.

Quite a big chunk, maybe even the majority, of his caps for Sweden were earned as right back.At least one World Cup finals as a right back and I think one or two Euros too

he only moved to the centre of the Swedish national defence towards the end (about the time he moved to right back for us ironically)

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We did it with Mellberg two seasons ago and however good a player we all thing he is a full back he was not.

Quite a big chunk, maybe even the majority, of his caps for Sweden were earned as right back.At least one World Cup finals as a right back and I think one or two Euros too

he only moved to the centre of the Swedish national defence towards the end (about the time he moved to right back for us ironically)

Maybe so but can you honestly say he did a good job for us? To me he looked like a centre back playing RB, that is great in defence but one dimensional going forward.

To be fair I did not know where he played for Sweden but he certainly was not bought and played as a RB by Villa. Added to that he has just left Juve as he has been pushed down the pecking order of centre backs.

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We did it with Mellberg two seasons ago and however good a player we all thing he is a full back he was not.

Quite a big chunk, maybe even the majority, of his caps for Sweden were earned as right back.At least one World Cup finals as a right back and I think one or two Euros too

he only moved to the centre of the Swedish national defence towards the end (about the time he moved to right back for us ironically)

Maybe so but can you honestly say he did a good job for us? To me he looked like a centre back playing RB, that is great in defence but one dimensional going forward.

To be fair I did not know where he played for Sweden but he certainly was not bought and played as a RB by Villa. Added to that he has just left Juve as he has been pushed down the pecking order of centre backs.

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