Villa’s defensive record from last season left a lot to be desired and the fractious relationship between the management and the mainstay partnership of Dunne and Collins only served to exacerbate matters at times, with a more than willing and able replacement waiting in the wings in Spaniard Carlos Cuellar, who has been constantly overlooked at his preferred centre back position since joining the club from Rangers, leading to reports of a return to Ibrox this summer.
Transfer talk has now cooled regarding the popular defender with McLeish seemingly keen to keep him at the club and I for one hope the Scot gives him more of a chance to prove his credentials after his big money move a few years back. Cuellar is joined in his urgency to break into the first team by youngster Ciaran Clark, who looks set to become a fans favourite at the club having shared the Young Player of the year award with Marc Albrighton last term.
Cuellar made just 10 league starts last season compared to Dunne’s 32 and Collins’ 31. The former Rangers man completed a higher pass success rate than the duo with his score of 77% equaling that of Ciaran Clark and trumping Dunne’s 73% and Collins’ 67% respectively. The man on the fringes also ranked highest of the centre backs at the club in terms of aerial success rate which may surprise many, winning 69% of his contests ahead of Dunne’s 66% and Collins’ 63%.
When it comes to tackles made per game we start to see a pattern. The two best centre backs in this regard were, you guessed it, Carlos Cuellar and Ciaran Clark with 2.8 on average. Dunne isn’t far behind with 2.3 but Collins again ranks extremely low with just 1.3 successful challenges per match. The two fringe players beat last season’s starting duo again when it comes to interceptions per game, and again equal each others scores with 2.3. Collins came above Dunne in this regard with 1.7 compared to the Irishman’s 1.4.
An area in which Gerard Houllier’s preferred pairing did excel is with regards to clearances and blocks made. However, one should consider that both facets are more applicable when the team has come under excessive and often unnecessary pressure from their opponents. Dunne and Collins’ commitment when playing is not something that can be questioned, with both willing to throw their body’s on the line, making 1.3 blocks a match each compared to Cuellar and Clark’s figures of 0.8 and 0.5 respectively. When it comes to clearances, Collins completed a crucial 8.3 per game on average while Dunne managed 6.8. Cuellar and Clark scored 5.4 and 4.4 respectively in this regard.
In terms of a partnership for next season, one could argue that the pairs whom have been compared together (Cuellar-Clark / Dunne-Collins) are too similar. This would suggest that one or the other of Cuellar and Clark should get their chance and with Spaniard’s superior statistics make him the prime candidate in my opinion. It may come as a surprise that Collins ranked highest in just one of the defensive stats analysed (clearances) which could suggest that the Wales international would be less missed than the much maligned figure of Dunne. Needless to say with Clark also waiting in the wings, both of last year’s near ever presents should be wary of their positions in the side.
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