If there has been one vast improvement in the team this season it has undoubtedly been in a defensive sense, despite fantastic performances from Gabby Agbonlahor. Also undoubtedly in my opinion the most improved player in the back four has been Stephen Warnock, who was rightly dropped after a string of bad displays last season but treated extremely harshly thereafter.
In my job as a stats analyst I recently compiled the best Premier League XI for aerial success rate and was encouraged to see certain findings. Winning headers from set-pieces was a major downfall last season and it appears McLeish has worked on the players willingness to compete in the air this time around, with Warnock’s improvements quite remarkable.
Of players to have won at least 10 headers this season, the left-back has the highest success rate in his position having come out on top in 10 of 14 aerial duels (71%). This success rate ranks Warnock as the 6th best defender to have won 10 headers in the entire division in the air and is a massive improvement on last year. The former England international played the first half of the season picking up a meagre 43% aerial success rate!
Centre-backs Collins and Dunne also made the top 20 defenders list under the same requirements with Dunne in 11th and Collins 15th. The Irishman’s success rate of 67% has come from winning 14 of 21 aerial duels in total and is a slight improvement on last season’s 67%. Collins’ total of 61% is actually slightly down on 63% from last season but is still decent having challenged for 28 duels and come out on top 17 times.
At right-back Alan Hutton has added height if nothing else thus far, but having yet to win 10 headers, is the only Villa defender not to make the top 20. A record of 7 duels won out of 12 (58%) is decent but paled into insignificance compared to Warnock’s 71%, with the Englishman significantly shorter. The Scot’s figures are markedly better than last year’s right-back Luke Young (48%), however, and should help to sure up a back-line that was in desperate need of just that!
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