So three games and one month into the season and Villa fans seem to have split opinions on the progression, if they believe there has been any, under Alex McLeish. The Scot has come in and picked the same team for every game excluding the forced change in bringing in Chris Herd to replace the outgoing Luke Young last time out. Not only has he stuck to the same XI, indicating he is pleased with the form the side has shown, he has used the same substitutes thus far in Albrighton, Bannan and Clark.
Fabian Delph’s somewhat surprise inclusion in the opener against Fulham has proved to a justified one and the youngsters displays may have been a key reason in the departure of Jean Makoun. The clean slate given to Stephen Ireland has yet to see him feature in the league at all.
So who was Villa’s best player in the month of August? Based on my opinions thrown in with those of the Facebook group and Twitter followers, here is my top 4, in ascending order.
4. Shay Given
2 clean sheets in your first 3 games for a new club is a record that even the keepers at top clubs would be proud of. Experienced stopper Given has come in and done exactly that, and were it not for a lapse of concentration defensively in the Blackburn game, he wouldn’t have conceded a goal.
Undoubtedly his best appearance thus far came in the season opener at Fulham due to the fact that he was called upon on numerous occasions, making 5 saves. since then he has been called into action just 3 times, explaining his ranking of 4th on my list. The Irishman has played despite suffering a groin problem which has seen James Collins take goal-kicks toward the end of matches, but has thus far done everything asked of him.
3. Gabby Agbonlahor
After a stale start to the season against Fulham, many, myself included, were calling for Agbonlahor to be dropped having failed to impress under Gerard Houllier last year. Playing the entirety of the current campaign on the left, Gabby has looked rejuvenated since, helped in no small part to an absolute gem of an opener against Blackburn.
The forward tormented the aging Salgado for the entire first half before picking up a knock that saw him withdrawn in his prime. Luckily his confidence remained undeterred and he proved a real threat, and possibly the most likely to make or create a breakthrough against Wolves, and more directly Stearman. 5 shots this season is only topped by N’Zogbia with 6 and represents a higher goal threat then Bent who has attempted just 3 shots thus far. He has also made 1.3 key passes per game, third highest in the squad, and may have found a new home on the left.
2. Richard Dunne
Many will see the inclusion of Richard Dunne as somewhat of a shock but his improvement from a pretty terrible season gone by has been pretty radical thus far in my opinion, surpassing the form of Collins next to him. The 2 clean sheets kept have been a team effort but can be attributed to a partnership with the Welshman that looks to be back to it’s once impressive best.
The Irish defender has made 1.7 tackles per game to Collins’ 1 and a far advanced 3 interceptions per match to his partner’s 1.3. As well as just edging Collins for clearances per game (8.7 to 8.3), Dunne is only outdone by the 28-year-old in terms of blocks per game (0.3 to 1.3). His aerial success of 80% beats Collins decent 70% while he has attempted 2 shots at goal, just 1 fewer than Bent.
1. Fabian Delph
The surprise package thus far, no-one will have been more frustrated by the hampering of his progression due to injury than the man himself. Still just 20, Fabian Delph appears to be back to full fitness and is showing the Villa fans what he is capable of with some eye-catching, energetic displays. His latest game against Wolves was undoubtedly his weakest, proving there is work to be done on the diminutive midfielder, but his progression is certainly a highlight under McLeish thus far and earns him my Player of the Month award.
Figures in which Delph stands out include a pass accuracy of 84%, only behind N’Zogbia with 85% and ahead of Petrov’s 79%. His 3 successful tackles per game lead the way for the team, while 2.7 interceptions per game rank him 4th. 1 successful dribble per game is again, only behind N’Zogbia, and shows that he can offer plenty in an attacking sense and may be being played too deep. His impressive ball retention is made all the more so by the fact that his involvement has been high, especially for someone so young, making 42.3 passes per game- a figure only bettered by midfield partner Petrov whose aforementioned accuracy is considerably lower.
It is good to see that Delph is not only catching the eye of the Villa faithful, but getting the credit he deserves elsewhere, making his way into the www.whoscored.com Under-21 Team of the Month for August.
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