It’s fair to say Aston Villa have had a decent start to the season, with beating Liverpool at Anfield a real highlight so far. Last season manager Paul Lambert pinned most of his hopes on youth and inexperience in order to develop top quality players to cope with the pressures of the Premier League – the likes of Matt Lowton, Ashley Westwood, Andreas Weimann and Fabian Delph were very much relied on in the 2013/2014. In some ways it worked with Westwood now one of the first names on the Villa teamsheet and Delph having earned his first call in the international set up for England.
Yet one player that has even surpassed his own expectations and has been a revelation for the Midlands club is central defender Ron Vlaar – who is closer to the other end of the age spectrum. Harshly, the centre half went under the radar and was an unsung hero in the league and it’s only his superb performances for the Netherlands at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that earned him the recognition he rightly deserves. Holland were defensively one of the best teams in the tournament, conceding just four goals in seven games, with Vlaar playing an integral part in order for them to fulfil Louis Van Gaal’s expectations of reaching the semi-finals. Despite the Dutch having a young and inexperienced defensive line, like with Aston Villa, Vlaar was on hand with his exceptional organisation skills to tighten the three man backline.
After ‘the Oranje’s’ heroics in South America two of Holland’s three man defence moved onto pastures new. 22 year old Bruno Martins-Indi left Feyenoord in order to replace Manchester City’s Eliaquim Mangala at Portuguese outfit FC Porto, while Stefan De Vrij also left the same Eredivisie club, this time for Italian side Lazio. Vlaar has been constantly linked with a move away from Villa Park, with Southampton having looked at the Villains’ captain to replace Dejan Lovren who left for Liverpool. Now, Van Gaal wants him at Manchester United, with the Red Devils having had major injury problems in that department.
Only Argentina’s Ezequiel Garay made more clearances than the no nonsense Dutchman at the World Cup and in the Premier League, only five players who featured at least five times at centre back in England’s top tier last term averaged more tackles per foul than Vlaar. Also, only Crystal Palace and West Ham averaged less possession than Villa last season, which meant the Villains’ backline was under a lot of pressure. His perfectly timed tackles and concentration were the reason Villa are still in the division.
Winning 30.5% of 59 games with Vlaar since he signed in 2012 compared to just 11.8% of the 17 he missed, Villa cannot afford to lose one of their prized assets, and worryingly, he is available on a free transfer in the summer. With Vlaar’s superb attributes and experience, as well as his connections with Van Gaal, this is a player that could become a vital player for Manchester United, unless Villa urgently do something about it.