Nigel Reo-Coker has been in and out of the side once again this season and despite Gerard Houllier showing more faith in him then Martin O’Neill during his last two seasons at the club, the midfielder remains the unlucky third choice centre-midefielder, which could potentially now mean four. The former West Ham captain will have been buoyed earlier in the season when handed the Villa skipper role in Petrov’s absence, but an entirely injury blocked his progression as a regular in the first team. Things looked up again when the club offloaded Steve Sidwell but the signings of Jean Makoun, and more recently Michael Bradley on loan will be real cause for concern for the player, whose contract is winding down at Villa Park. I believe losing the tireless midfield general could be a big mistake for the club with Stiliyan Petrov certainly on the decline. In fact, despite being continuously overlooked, Reo-Coker has been far better than the Bulgarian this term and has impressed me when playing.
We have always known that what you get from the 26-year-old is supreme energy levels and commitment but the box-to-box man has picked up his critics in the past, me being one of them, for his passing game. Fans may justify Petrov’s continued inclusion in the squad as the veteran is better at retaining possession, but recent stats show otherwise. In fact, in Reo-Coker’s last start for the club against Wigan, of the 48 passes he attempted, 46 of them were successful, a fantastic success rate of 94 per cent. Jean Makoun has shown real quality on the ball of late and has been eclipsing his partner, Petrov in the passing stakes. I feel that Makoun’s ability to orchestrate play and Reo-Coker’s work rate and stamina, could prove to be a winning formula, as it was against Wigan. All this without considering Bradley, who could be in line for a debut against Blackpool at the weekend.
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