We now approach a position where we have 5 players vying for the title of our best centre-back of the 2014-15 season. A position that in the previous year was part of the team that conceded 61 goals. It’s fair to say that overall, all centre-backs have improved in this season Villa conceded 57 goals, 4 goals better off than last!
Nathan Baker and Okore are both young and have massively improved this season, Baker is a very solid defender who puts in great tackles and is a menace in the air. Okore made a great comeback that saw the young Dane miss the majority of the season through injury. Clark has stepped up his game this season, the defender became a leader this season with some fantastic performances. While the experienced duo of Vlaar and Senderos, both plagued with injury throughout the season provided Villa with some vital experience at the back.
- Jores Okore played the most football out of any other centre-back, playing a total of 2433 minutes by making 29 appearances. Okore scored 1 goal (against Chelsea) and contributed to 6 clean sheets this season. Okore had a total of 6 yellow cards this season.
- Ciaran Clark played a total of 2356 minutes of football making 30 appearances. Clark scored 1 goal (against Leicester), provided 2 assists and contributed to 6 clean sheets. Clark topped the yellow card table with a total of 10 bookings. Clark also picked up one red card
- Ron Vlaar played a total of 1916 minutes of football making 22 apperanaces. Vlaar provided 2 assists and contributed to 6 clean sheets. Vlaar picked up 4 yellow cards and 1 red card.
- Nathan Baker played a total of 879 minutes of football making 13 appearances. Baker contributed to 3 clean sheets.
- Philippe Senderos played a total of 726 minutes of football making a total of 9 appearances. Senderos contributed to 3 clean sheets and picked up 2 yellow cards.
Based on Whoscored statistics, Ciaran Clark was Aston Villa’s best player picking up a total score of 7.13. Clark won a total of 3 aerial duels per game (3rd best), won 2 MOTM’s (3rd best), had 1.9 interceptions on average (3rd best), second most clearances (8), 0.9 blocks per game (2nd best).
Okore was Villa’s second best player picking up a score of 7.10. Okore won 2.1 aerial duels per game (5th best), had the 3rd best passing success rate (86.2%) per game, 3rd most amount of tackles (2.2), the most interceptions (2.9), 3rd most clearances (6.5) and 4th most blocks (0.7)
Baker was Villa’s 5th best player picking up a score of 6.95. Baker won the second highest number of aerial duels (3.3), 4th most interceptions (1.6), Baker made an average of 9.2 clearances per game which was the highest, and had the 3rd most blocks (0.7)
Ron Vlaar finished as Villa’s 12th best player with a score of 6.65. Vlaar had the second most interceptions (2), made 5.8 clearances per game (5th best),
Senderos was Villa’s 14th best player with a total score of 6.64. Senderos conceded the third most amount of fouls (1.3), made 6 clearances per game (4th best), and made the most amount of blocks with a total of 1.1.
1. Ciaran Clark
No one expect Clark to perform this well! During pre-season he was seen as the weak link and had to fight his way into the team, injuries of Senderos and Vlaar did aid in that progress but full credit to Clark who managed to tie down his position as Villa’s main defender. He created a great partnership with Okore and played well alongside Vlaar as well. Unfortunately Clark did get injured towards the end of the season and the affects were crystal clear, Aston Villa suffered a 3-game losing streak towards the end of the season and the FA Cup final defeat might’ve produced a different score line with a fit Clark.
2. Ron Vlaar
Say whatever you want about Vlaar, I still think he is one of Villa’s best defenders. He is solid in the back and provides vital experience to Baker and Okore. Vlaar’s best moments was definitely when partnered with either Baker or Senderos. Vlaar leads by example and despite the rare mistake, he has been important to Aston Villa in the past two seasons. Vlaar’s first half of the season was better than his second, but nonetheless he produced a solid number of clean sheets and Villa will miss Vlaar should he leave.
3. Nathan Baker
I am also very happy with Baker’s progress, he might not be the fastest defender in the side but he is surely one of the most dedicated and strongest defender of the bunch. He owns the box’s well and isn’t afraid to put his life on the line for the sake of protecting Aston Villa’s goal. Baker plays best when partnered with an experienced defender such as Senderos or Vlaar because he lacks the leadership trait that Clark has. Nonetheless there has been visible improvement by the young Englishmen and I hope that the rumours that claim that Sherwood doesn’t rate Baker are untrue. I think Baker deserves a chance. Baker too has been affected by injury throughout the season.
4. Jores Okore
Many will believe that I have been rather cruel to put Okore this low. I think Okore can become a great defender but I think he has too many errors this season, he conceded the penalty against Burnley and was largely at fault for Liverpools first goal in FA Cup 2-1 win. Okore will learn and he has great potential, but like young Clark and Baker, he too will need to take his time to grow as a player. Okore made a great comeback from last season’s injury, and considering the fact that was considering his future after being left out by Lambert for a large part of the first half of the season. Okore played a large part of the second half of the season and has been paired with a variety of defenders, he played best with Clark.
5. Philippe Senderos
Senderos started his Villa career very well. He formed a very good partnership with Vlaar and Baker and was instrumental in Villa’s very good early season form. Unfortunately, Senderos picked up an injury around November and has not played since. Whether he will be playing in Aston Villa next season remains a mystery. Nonetheless, Senderos did add experience to Villa’s defence but has been overshadowed by the performances of Clark and Okore.