Liverpool v Villa blog: Who will be our men in the middle?
Paul Brown discusses the central question for boss Paul Lambert.
13th Dec 2012
Liverpool v Villa blog: Who will be our men in the middle?

Managers often say that competition for places is a headache they're happy to have.

Well, with that in mind, boss Paul Lambert's temples will be throbbing in the run-up to Liverpool on Saturday.

Never is the battle for selection most keenly felt than in the central area, with a plethora of emerging aces eager to be one of the men in the middle at Anfield.

Much was made of the performances of Christian Benteke, Andreas Weimann and Shay Given following the victory at Norwich - and rightly so.

But what escaped the attention of many pundits were the performances of Fabian Delph and Karim El Ahmadi.

Delph has had injury battles to put up with since joining the club four years ago.

He sparkled in his first game against Fiorentina - and shone once more at Carrow Road with a performance of defensive solidity and attacking impetus.

El Ahmadi also made a strong start to his career at the club - albeit for him only a few months ago - but he has been in and out of the side since serving a suspension at Sunderland.

But he proved to be a beacon of light on a foggy night in East Anglia, passing his way brilliantly through ninety minutes in claret and blue.

In most cases following a 4-1 quarter-final victory on away soil, their places would be secured for the next game, for Villa it's a tough trip to Merseyside.

But the men they replaced for the Capital One Cup contest - Ashley Westwood and Barry Bannan - have been standout performers these past few weeks too.

Dubbed the 'B6 Iniesta' by tweeting supporters, Westwood has dazzled fans with his inch-perfect passes, even reaching a 94% completion rate against Sunderland.

Westwood has been paired with Bannan for games against the Black Cats, Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal, Reading, QPR and Stoke - and the duo have really looked the business.

Bannan has revelled playing alongside Westwood, hailing the transfer window signing as "immensely neat and tidy on the ball". He has been able to show his creative side and spray some wonderful balls all over the park with the steadying influence of Westwood beside him.

Westwood has been equally impressed with Bannan's gifts, praising his "quick and nimble game as well as his tireless chasing, harrying and blocking."

Just a couple of weeks ago, Westwood spoke of his hopes at developing an already productive partnership with Bannan but sounded a sensible note of caution, saying: "I'm not naive - it's up to the gaffer to pick the team each week."

Lambert, for his part, will revel in the abundance of options in the middle ground ahead of a tough weekend game.

But he knows he faces a tough choice, with all his middle men proving "central" to his ongoing plans.

liverpool, paul brown, blogs,
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