Ciaran Clark reckons his friendly rivalry with Nathan Baker has boosted Villa in their bid for defensive solidity.
Paul Lambert's team have already earned four clean sheets this season - compared to five throughout the entire 2012-13 campaign.
Academy graduates Clark and Baker have often found themselves battling for one central defensive position alongside captain Ron Vlaar.
But Clark says that healthy competition is driving the pair on.
"It's been up and down for me personally," said Clark.
"I was on the bench to start with and then I was playing.
"It's been a bit of a mixed bag for me and Nathan and we were both coming on and coming off at first.
"When you get on you have to try to take your chance and I think both of us have done that this season.
"We've both played well and both want to be involved and play.
"We are good mates and if one of us is playing the other one will fully back the other lad.
"I think that's the kind of belief we've got here at Villa.
"Whoever's not playing wants the 11 players out there to do well and I think that will take us far.
"All last season we were learning the whole time. It was a young squad last year, and each game we played in we were learning.
"But last season's gone now and we need to concentrate on this year."
Having helped the team get off to a solid start, Clark says achieving a consistent run of form is Villa's next aim.
"We've had a very tough start," he added.
"Considering the top sides we've played against, we've managed to pick up quite a few points.
"Hopefully we can get some consistency going, keep the belief and confidence that's there and we'll have a good season.
"It's always nice as a defender to keep clean sheets. We've managed to get a few and hopefully we can keep a few more."
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