The half-way point of the season is upon us. Let’s take a look at how the defence have fared thus far.

Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy


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Aston Villa have now played every Premier League side at least once – twice, in some cases like Norwich.

It’s been an up-and-down rollercoaster, as many expected so far but there’s no baseline to compare the club to from last year as they were in a completely different league.

Despite Aston Villa’s precarious position, he doesn’t seem fearful that he may lose his job – perhaps pointing towards the boss remaining even if the club are relegated – a sentiment that I personally agree with.

The defence has been a little up-and-down too, starting the season exceptionally well – but have conceded an excruciating amount of goals in the run-up to the new decade.

So, who were the stand-out performers?


Goalkeepers:

Tom Heaton: B+

  • Minutes played: 1,853
  • Goals conceded: 34
  • Clean sheets: 4

34 goals conceded in 20 games isn’t pretty reading, but it’s not something worth condemning Tom Heaton for. In fact, the goals conceded would likely be much higher if it wasn’t for the England international. Generally solid, but there are gaffes and issues every so often, which keeps him from taking home a higher rating.

Orjan Nyland: C

  • Minutes played: 91
  • Goals conceded: 2
  • Clean sheets: 0

Orjan Nyland picks up a C for his singular Premier League appearance this season, a 91-minute show against Wolverhampton Wanderers as he replaced Jed Steer in the net after an injury. Not the worst performance from the Norwegian, and it’d be unfair to lambast him for a collective poor performance.

Jed Steer: N/A

  • Minutes played: 8
  • Goals conceded: 0
  • Clean sheets: 1? (Does this count?)

Jed Steer receives no rating as he has played just eight minutes of Premier League football this season. Although, if you technically think about it, he kept a clean sheet… I guess?

Lovre Kalinic: N/A

  • Minutes played: 0
  • Goals conceded: N/A
  • Clean sheets: N/A

Lovre Kalinic has not played for Aston Villa to date, so receives no rating.



Fullbacks:

Ahmed Elmohamady: D+

  • Minutes played: 677
  • Goals: 0
  • Assists: 1

Ahmed Elmohamady has been used sparingly so far this season in the Premier League, and hasn’t been as useful as previous seasons – with the Egyptian only picking up one assist. Another fun fact is that Aston Villa have won only two games that Ahmed Elmohamady has made an appearance in, and one of those was an 11 minute cameo in the 2-0 win over Everton – which possibly means Guilbert is a better choice. Does it?

Frédéric Guilbert: C

  • Minutes played: 1,347
  • Goals: 0
  • Assists: 2

Frederic Guilbert has been the favoured choice of Dean Smith for the majority of the season and has made himself more useful than Elmohamady with two assists – although with near enough three times as much game time.

Matt Targett: C

  • Minutes played: 1,234
  • Goals: 1
  • Assists: 1

Targett has been somewhat hampered by injuries, concussion and so forth, but is the only fullback to have scored a goal. He has struggled against faster opposition and made the odd mistake, but this could be attributed to a lack of support. The occasional mistake has kept him away from a higher grade.

Neil Taylor: D

  • Minutes played: 671
  • Goals: 0
  • Assists: 0

Neil Taylor received plaudits early into the season for his defensive ability but was criticised for his lack of offensive nous. He has not been involved in the squad since a substitute appearance at the start of November.



Central Defenders:

Bjorn Engels: C

  • Minutes played: 1,325
  • Goals: 0
  • Assists: 0

Bjorn Engels has had, all things considered, a relatively strong start to his life at Aston Villa. He’s looked a little off the pace at times, namely against Southampton and Leicester, but injuries in the first half of the season haven’t helped that.

Ezri Konsa Ngoyo: C-

  • Minutes played: 700
  • Goals: 0
  • Assists: 1

Ezri Konsa has been the preferred back up for any injured defender, generally, but has been lax on the ball at times and made a handful of mistakes. In the seven games that Konsa has started, Aston Villa have conceded 13 goals – but not all of them can be placed at his feet.

James Chester: N/A

  • Minutes played: 0
  • Goals: N/A
  • Assists: N/A

Aston Villa’s former Captain fantastic has not appeared in the Premier League, and therefore receives no rating.

Kortney Hause: D+

  • Minutes played: 393
  • Goals: 0
  • Assists: 0

Nine goals in Kortney’s four appearances aren’t going to hold up well for fans – even though statistically the former Wolves defender has been quite strong. For this fact, and this fact alone, Kortney receives just short of Konsa’s grade.

Tyrone Mings: B-

  • Minutes played: 1,485
  • Goals: 1
  • Assists: 1

The centre-back with the most game time this season, despite missing the majority of December’s games with an injury. Mings has overplayed, or underplayed at times and has looked iffy on occasion, but is still the best defender at the club currently. He’s also chipped in with a goal and an assist.


Overall Rating: D+

Aston Villa’s defence at times has looked resolute and it has been mistakes that have been their undoing, however more recently it just seems like leaking goals is something they are paid for – and that’s showcased in the huge goal-difference swing across December.

Dean Smith needs to sort this out in the second half of the season.

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