Whilst he’s not the most exciting player going forward – Neil Taylor been one of the stand-out performers defensively thus far this season.
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“Even when matches don’t work out the way you planned, you’ve always got to stay strong in defence; it’s a matter of willpower and intelligence.” – Becky Sauerbrunn
Few quotes are able to eloquently sum up Neil Taylor, his time at Aston Villa and his recent form in the Premier League. The Welsh international full-back isn’t a stark definition of a modern-day full-back. As a matter of fact, he’s almost completely the opposite. It’s not a knock to make that statement about Taylor and his defence-first mentality. It’s just the honest truth.
It would be unfair to compare Taylor to some of the other more youthful fullbacks of the Premier League. After all, Taylor finds himself in a league where the more popular players at his position at other clubs are well younger and more offensively gifted. There should be no comparison because there is no comparison. Taylor’s game isn’t the flashiest but he looks to make solid defensive decisions that lead to clearances, tackles, interceptions and blocks. That’s his style of football.
Neil Taylor made five clearances in each of his last two Premier League games played against Crystal Palace and Everton alone. He also made five interceptions apiece against Palace and Everton, too. Although it is early in the Premier League season, Neil Taylor has twenty-five clearances to his name so far.
The stability and defensive know-how of Taylor is an asset to Aston Villa when they are under pressure in the defensive areas of the pitch. It’s been like this for a long time in the case of Taylor at Aston Villa. When called upon, no matter the circumstances, Taylor has been incredibly steady for Villa. Maybe not stellar, but steady. That must count for something.
In his latest performance against Crystal Palace, Taylor once again proved that he can be influential in his own end of the pitch. Of his twenty-five attempted passes, Taylor successfully completed twenty of those passes for an 80% accuracy. He also made two passes into the final third of the pitch early in the game; a sign that he wants to and can contribute in the build-up to offensive chances. This is not a rare occurrence or statistical anomaly. Neil Taylor averaged 6.9 accurate passes into the final third of the pitch per game last season in the Championship.
Of course, some Aston Villa supporters would like more production out of Taylor in terms of offensive capabilities, but that’s just not his game. It really is as simple as that. Would the player himself like to contribute more in that area of the pitch? Probably. Yet Taylor is still doing a job by being a steadfast, tactically aware defender. He contributed to reasons why Wilfried Zaha completed only one cross. By the numbers, Neil Taylor did enough to keep a highly coveted transfer target frustrated for ninety minutes.
It makes a lot of sense to start giving more respect towards Neil Taylor if you’re an Aston Villa supporter that thinks lowly of him. There are a lot more facets to being a footballer other than just scoring, assisting and being offensively motivated. Aston Villa are still very much a freshly promoted team and having players in the starting eleven who look more towards the defensive aspects of football is incredibly necessary, if not vital.