Villa v Cardiff stats: Vlaar a calming influence on defensive unit
Paul Lambert's side are back at Villa Park this weekend and while it's true that their away record has been better than that at home of late it's easy to forget the run that they've had. Each of the Villans five home matches in the league have come against sides in the current top nine but they'll be hoping for more ahead of the visit of Cardiff.
Despite making a decent start to life in the Premier League, culminating in a victory in the Welsh derby last weekend, much of the visitors struggles have come in front of goal thus far. Only Fulham have had fewer shots than Malky Mackay's newly-promoted side this season (99), with Fraizer Campbell, Steven Caulker and Jordon Mutch tied on two as the club's top scorers thus far.
The hosts will need to be wary of Cardiff's tendency to attack down the right side, however, so Villa's left flank may well be the busier defensively. The Bluebirds have had the highest proportion of their attacking touches down the right wing in the Premier League this season (44%), while Aston Villa have had the lowest proportion down the same side (31%).
Nevertheless the hosts have reason to be confident as only three of Villa's ten matches this season have come against sides outside of the current top nine and they haven't conceded a single goal in those games. With Cardiff currently occupying 12th position, and having marshalled the Villa backline to a third consecutive clean sheet away from home last week, captain Ron Vlaar will hope that his side can recreate their defensive heroics.
The Dutchman was awarded WhoScored.com's man of the match award for his display against West Ham, with a rating 8.0. The 28-year old had more touches than any other teammate (66), won all three of his aerial duels and made three tackles and three interceptions to help keep the Hammers at bay.
His WhoScored.com strengths are highlighted in the latter of those statistics, with tackling and ball interception both real assets to the centre-back's game. The former Feyenoord man is a calming influence in the defence - be it a back three, four or five - bringing vital experience to the only Premier League side yet to field a player over the age of 30 this season.
It's his know-how at the back that is perhaps most impressive, judging when is best to tackle and when not to dive in. Indeed, of all centre-backs in the Premier League this season, when you subtract his exceptionally low four fouls from the 21 tackles he has made his figure of 17 is the highest in the top-flight. Where timing of the challenge is concerned, Vlaar has it down to a fine art.
Add to that the fact that he's been dribbled past just 0.3 time per game and has won 67% of his aerial duels and it's no surprise that his average rating from WhoScored.com this season is up to 7.03 - fifth best in Villa's squad. Villa's skipper will hope to build on those impressive figures this weekend and help the side leapfrog their Welsh opponents with a win.
Find yet more statistics on Aston Villa and the rest of the Premier League, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings at WhoScored.com. Follow @WhoScored and their editor-in-chief @martinlaurence7 on Twitter.
Go to full match coverage for Aston Villa 2 - 0 Cardiff City (7th November 2013) >
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