Best of the Remainers: Which Aston Villa players have improved since last season?

Last season saw many Villa players vilified.  And rightly so.

However, with a new owner came new ideas, big plans and predictably, wholesale change in the 2016 summer transfer window.

There are some faces who remain though.

Ayew, Cissokho, Gestede, Grealish, Baker, Richards, Bacuna, Hutton & Westwood…& Gabby.

Who has turned the tide of supporter discontent?

Who has had more than enough opportunities to shine?

JORDAN AYEW

For many Ayew offered bright moments in a very dark season of relegation despair.  Others felt that he was greedy, wasteful and temperamental.  This year see’s Ayew remain very much the fans “Marmite” player.  Yet…he is currently ranked our number 1 [whoscored.com] player with 4 assists, 4 man of the match performances and 2 goals.  Now isn’t that a talking point?

ALY CISSOKHO

The former Lyon, Valencia, Porto & Liverpool defender remains a baffling individual.  Physically uncompromising, his promising early season form has evaporated & seen him drop out of contention in favour of Jordan Amavi.  A recent outing in the under-23′s against Celtic didn’t help his cause, struggling to cope as the side lost 3-0 at Villa Park.

RUDY GESTEDE

Much maligned last term for his lack of goals and quality, the Benin international looked on course for greater heights this term after a flurry of early season strikes.  However, with the change of manager and arrival of prolific Jonathan Kodjia, Gestede may need to find more in his locker than a physical threat alone.

JACK GREALISH

Grealish suffered one of the worst cases of second season syndrome on record in the 2015/16 season, having the ignominy of never featuring in a winning Villa side.  Coupled to a number of off-field disciplinary problems, it proved to be a wake up call for the youngster.  Jack has shown glimpses of quality this season, but must find consistency in his play as well as discipline.  The latter was most notably lacking in the Wolves game, Bruce’s first in charge, for which he received a posthumous 3 match ban for stamping.

NATHAN BAKER

Banished to Bristol City on loan last season, Baker escaped the scarring weekly debacles the rest of us suffered.  The Villa academy graduate left the club with many not expecting him to make a return at all.  However, the [still only] 25 year old has grasped the opportunity given to him through Tommy Elphicks injury and is forging an impressive partnership with new signing James Chester.  Most recently Baker scored his first goal for the club, in the 1-1 draw with Brighton.

MICAH RICHARDS

Richards has been entrusted with just one start and one substitute appearance under both Di Matteo and Bruce to date.  This is a key stat for a player once heralded as a possible future England mainstay.  Whilst few could fault Richard’s commitment and effort, quality is glaringly lacking in many aspects of his game.  Positioning, control & even his reading of the play around him leave much to be desired.  Even given Villa’s injury problems at right back, he has been tellingly overlooked.

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LEANDRO BACUNA

The former Dutch youth international (now representing remote Caribbean island  Curaçao..?) was a regular recipient of disdain from the Villa faithful last term.  Whilst often played out of position and in a team routinely over-run, Bacuna still cut a disorientated figure.  This season he has started afresh, gone about his business diligently and performed well when employed in a more natural midfield role.  With that said, perhaps The Championship is Bacuna’s level?

ALAN HUTTON

A trier, heart on sleeve, never say die player.  But often at sea whenever Villa conceded last year.  Hutton has been peripheral this campaign until the injury to new signing Richie De Laet and has featured more regularly since.  Hutton remains questionable positionally and is extremely wasteful in possession.  Surely the retired Scottish international is a temporary stop gap at best?

ASHLEY WESTWOOD

“Much maligned” doesn’t really cut it.  Indeed, the poor guy has even been booed onto the pitch this season.  Whilst that’s a debate in itself, it does go some way towards illustrating the frustration with Westwood.  For all of the overlooked tidy passes and interplay, he lacks so much in other departments.  Flair and urgency when attacking spring to mind.  Equally, defensively he can be weak and offer little protection to the back two.  Whilst improved in recent weeks, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him replaced.

GABBY AGBONLAHOR

The come-back kid.  Gabby has shed a stone in weight in a bid to revive his career, but some may argue that the damage is well and truly done.  Ill discipline aside, Agbonlahor has delivered all too little over many years to warrant great excitement.  Whilst a rejuvenation would be welcomed, especially with Villa losing strikers to the Africa Cup of Nations in January, it seems as unlikely as it does rational to predict Gabby being the saviour.

Photo credit: The Sun

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