Aston Villa: Could Vlaar Vs Collins be a benchmark for our season?
Pre-season seems to have gone reasonably well for Aston Villa so far, other than the 3-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest, and it all bodes well for the season opener against West Ham United on August 18, which will see Villa's new rock at centre half come up against our former one.
After selling James Collins to the Hammers for £2.5 million, Villa manager Paul Lambert moved quickly to sign Ron Vlaar from Feyenoord, just when it seemed the deal was destined to slip by.
Since arriving at Villa Park, Vlaar seems to have won over the fans and is already setting about telling his opponents to expect a battle when they meet up. That’s the sort of language you want to hear from your new ‘stopper’ and by the looks of him he should be more than capable of backing up those words. He’s certainly not small.
Vlaar also wants to follow in the footsteps of Paul McGrath, Olof Melberg and Martin Laursen – I think Villa fans would settle for that.
One of Lambert’s first big tests will be how the two centre-halves perform during the curtain raiser. Of course the result won’t decide the title and Lambert will need time to adjust to his new surroundings, just like West Ham will need time to adjust to being back in the Premiership.
But the performances of Collins and Vlaar will be keenly monitored from the sidelines and if Collins plays a blinder and Vlaar has a howler, the first elements of doubt may begin to trickle into people’s minds.
I have ultimate faith in Lambert and believe he will do a brilliant job at Villa and it was clear Collins wanted out. It will be interesting to see how Vlaar and Ciaran Clark play together, which appears to be the manager’s favourite pairing, with Richard Dunne being injured and Nathan Baker out of favour.
We'll have to see if Collins has one of his off days but as he’s returning to his old stomping ground and will be running out in front of a packed Upton Park, it’s unlikely.
What we need is for Villa’s new look side to terrorise their defence, leaving Collins to scratch his head as to why he left.
It’s a very interesting opener, especially with West Ham’s new connection with Birmingham City – with former Blues owners Dave Sullivan and David Gold running the club – and the fact Villa handed the Londoners a 3-0 drubbing during the season opener two years ago.
Another result like that would do nicely but most importantly it will be great to see how Villa’s new signings perform, what formation Lambert goes for and how he goes about getting the team to play good football.
Collins could have a great game for West Ham, and I’ll always applauded him when he returns to Villa Park, but even if he does let’s hope it’s not enough to save his new side from an opening defeat.
Article by James Fisher
Calling all Villa fans: Do you think Vlaar is a better defender than Collins? Do you think Collins will regret leaving Villa? What do you expect from your new defender this season? Can he settle in the Premier League and become a household name? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.
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