Blog: Central current electrifying in Villa set-up
Paul Brown looks at the super claret and blue spine.
9th Aug 2011
Blog: Central current electrifying in Villa set-up

Alan Curbishley summed it up when he discussed the claret and blue squad looking to make waves in the Barclays Premier League in 2011-12.

Obviously the loss of star wingers Stewart Downing and Ashley Young, he said, would be tough to cater for because of their quality deliveries and expertise at set-pieces.

But the former Villa midfielder and expert football analyst was more interested in the basic spine running through the team.

He was spot on. Villa fans are obviously assessing the squad ahead of the new campaign and one thing shines through in the current set-up - and that is the quality of the central current.

Alex McLeish is blessed with real strength down the middle of his team and that should stand him in good stead in his debut campaign in the Villa dugout.

A lot is expected of the young lions in the squad - the likes of Marc Albrighton, Barry Bannan, Ciaran Clark and even Chris Herd, Jonathan Hogg and Shane Lowry could feature in time.

But the good thing is when it comes to the big positions on the pitch, experience and quality shines through in abundance.

Villa lost an amazing goalkeeper in Brad Friedel but have replaced him with a superb stopper in Shay Given.

Given was eager for first team football after losing his place at Manchester City to Joe Hart and Villa came calling for him once the goalkeeping position became available.

McLeish will be thrilled to have such a brilliant No.1 to call on and his praises have been sung already by two team-mates.

Habib Beye said when it comes to lightning reflexes and superb stops, Given is your man.

Another team-mate at Newcastle, Charles N'Zogbia also hailed Given, insistsing he will bring a steadiness to the back four.

That's been very true in pre-season with Given arguably Villa's best player throughout the games in the build-up to the new campaign.

Joining Given in the brilliant backline is Richard Dunne, who has returned to pre-season with renewed enthusiasm.

He had, what he admits himself, was an indifferent campaign last time out as he was beset by several problems throughout the season.

But the Dunne we have seen so far is fit and firing and ready to create a mean machine stopping unit.

Stan Petrov is an inspirational figure in the central ground - for his brilliant displays and also his leadership qualities.

Despite always being in chirpy mood at the training ground, Petrov hates losing.

The skipper made a point in his first interview back for pre-season of raving about new manager McLeish because the gaffer's 'winning mentality.'

The business of acquiring three points in every game is something Petrov takes very seriously and that should stand Villa in good stead again this season.

But his performances on the pitch are also to be revered.

McLeish is clearly a fan of his skipper, saying: "The experience of players such as Stiliyan is vital.

"He's a great example. I think the players look up to him. He's got so much experience domestically and internationally."

Completing the spine is Darren Bent, a finisher of outstanding class.

For years, I have heard Villa fans bemoaning the fact they didn't have an outright poacher of goals.

Now, they have the perfect example of predatory instinct.

Returning to where we began and the thoughts of Curbishley.

You couldn't find a better man to sum up Bent's brilliance, having signed him for Charlton from Ipswich.

He said: "He is just a fantastic goalscorer and if he misses one it doesn't faze him at all - he'll go again and again and again.

"Just ask the Villa boys in training. When the ball goes to Benty they expect it to go in which is great.

"Looking at the Villa over the past few years, that's something that they've been lacking - someone who can get up to the 15 or 20 mark."

Let's hope Bent does the business and becomes the first player since Peter Withe in 1981 to smash through the 20-goal mark in the top-flight.

Get hold of fantastic 4-for-£50 family deal for what should be Charles N'Zogbia's home debut against Blackburn - click here.


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