Central Defence: The heart of Villa’s problems.

Everything boils down to choice at the end of the day.  When I went into the off licence to select a hard earned glug of Hobgoblin, I looked along the shelves and saw a number of brands.  Most were well established beers that do a job but all taste the same.  Others were not everyone’s cup of tea but filled a niche.  And then there’s everyone’s friend – the humble ale.  Plodding along, exactly as the doctor ordered, and getting praise only after all others have taken theirs before it.

Excuse the beer references – but there is a point to all of this.

Carlos Cueller is our bottle of Hobgoblin.  And for once I am not making childish references to his now much improved facial features.  The man plays superbly whenever called upon, wins man of the matches, is frequently out of position, gives his all every time, always makes that header, always makes that tackle..

And finds himself behind James Collins AND Richard Dunne?

Carlos.  Forgive me.  King Carlos.  He never moans, never bleats to the press and doesn’t use his Twitter account to whinge about how hard done to he is.  He just gets on with it.

Because right now we as a club leak goals.  We are as wide open as Geordie lass on a Friday night.  What we need is an assured defender coming into his peak…if only we had Curtis Davies I hear you cry!  Alas I jest.  For all of our attacking prowess, at centre back we are utterly (and I mean utterly) hopeless.

James Collins has his supporters.  He is a “give it all” type of player.  He fell out of the Shaun Teale/Steve Staunton mould for commitment.  What he lacks is a footballing brain.  Collins is guilty of over committing to challenges high up the field that exposes he compatriot (Dunne) to nightmarish one on one scenarios time and again.  Count the times Collin’s jumps in to a challenge next time we play.  And then count the times he wastes the ball when in possession.  The man, for all his effort, is at times unfathomably clueless.

And Richard Dunne.  Up until this season I would not have heard a bad word said about this man.  His effort, composure and natural ability were as close to McGrath as we have had since.  Dunne defied all logic, his size, temperament and shape said he should be useless.  But he always made the all important challenges, won every header and made superb marauding runs to assassinate those who felled him.  Superb.

This season, for whatever reason, Dunne has lost his way massively.  His recent form has been improved – but he is way off the pace of what is required for a Premiership central defender.  He misses headers, no longer threatens from corners and the commanding presence that was our bedrock is no more.

And this is why Houllier must be brave.  In my opinion we have two weak centre halves.  They both have qualities and flaws.  When combined they cause each other as many problems as themselves alone.  Remove one weak-link – perhaps the other will improve.  So who to drop?  That’s the question – and is one I believe we will see Gerard make soon enough.

Because Cueller is the obvious, most natural, replacement.