Squad Analysis: Which Villa players to keep in the Championship?

As we stare into the abyss, it is perhaps long overdue that we examine just exactly who amongst the ranks can be depended upon in The Championship.  A league of dogfights, where we will be a major scalp & in which the men are sorted from the boys.

The below assumes, of course, that they aren’t released or sold (…fat chance) first.


Brad Guzan

After an alarming dip in form, the USA ‘keeper has been benched in favour of  Mark Bunn.  Guzan joined from Chivas but spent his early career on the periphery, before an unceremonious free transfer, only to be recalled in a fashion only Villa could manage.  After an intial period of reliability between the sticks, Brad’s form has largely been a slow motion car crash.  A physical league needs a commanding presence that can assure the defence; Guzan is not the man.

Mark Bunn

An unexpected run in the first team has seen Bunn thrust into the limelight.  After shaky performances in pre-season and the cup, it was a reflection of just how poor Brad Guzan had become that he finds himself as first choice.  Despite being passionate and keen to succeed, Bunn cuts a diminutive figure in goal and appears prone to questionable decisions.  His role as back-up once a solid alternative is sourced seems the only logical conclusion.

Jed Steer

Officially Villa’s number 2, the 23 year old has spent virtually all his time out on loan since joining from Norwich as a free agent.  He has come in for some criticism at Huddersfield due to inconsistency, but has also built an equal reputation for shot stopping.  If he can iron out the sloppy errors and have greater command of his box he may well make the step back up.  Failing that, he’s at serious risk of replacement or release.

Alan Hutton

The Scottish international is a strong and powerful player with the temperament arguably required in Championship brawls.  Indeed, there are fewer figures better suited to a clash at Elland Road on a Tuesday night in the pouring rain.  Big questions remain about Hutton’s overall defensive quality, with numerous high profile errors leading to goals before a period out of the team enforced by injury.  Currently on a deal worth £40,000 per week expiring in summer 2016, a significant pay cut would be required as well as the club analysing whether there is any mileage in a renewed deal.  It would be no great surprise to see his exit.

Joleon Lescott

It is a shame to see an alleged Villa supporting player have such little affinity with the fans.  Despite an upturn in form after a very shaky start to his Villa career, Lescott had enjoyed a resurgence of sorts prior to the 6-0 drubbing by Liverpool.  However, bereft of pace and with equally dodgy distribution, Lescott must be cut adrift.  The future has knees, Lescott doesn’t, it’s over.

Jores Okore

The 23 year old Dane has stated his Champions League ambitions but must develop significantly to realise them.  Despite showing glimpses of talent, his career has been blighted by injury and indifferent form.  Contracted to 2017, Villa could take a gamble and allow him to run down his deal with the possible incentive being a move to bigger and brighter.  Okore is worth keeping, but comes with uncertainty in both his ultimate quality and injury prone-ness.

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Ciaran Clark

Clark, now 26 years old, should be entering the peak of his playing career.  The Irish international has never kicked on to achieve his full potential and finds himself very much a fringe player.  With that said, Clark has consistently demonstrated both commitment and desire to play for Aston Villa.  His attitude, often through thin and thinner has been admirable.  Further, his physical style may be suited to battles with Championship opposition.  Contracted until 2020, the next few seasons will make or break his career.

Aly Cissokho

Cissokho has returned to the fold after being loaned to Lyon following a very poor start to life at Villa.  The former Liverpool player has suffered greatly due to the need for fullbacks to be more offensive, arguably his weakest attribute.  Defensively though Cissokho has been an improvement on previous incumbents.  Whilst this doesn’t say a great deal, he is an imposing figure who can compete physically to great effect.  Strong in the air and also very capable at blocking crosses, a forgotten art, he might actually be worth retaining.  Contracted to 2018, a wage of £1.2 million per year could prove a deciding factor if Villa don’t achieve a quick return to the top flight.

Jordan Amavi

The promising right back suffered a horrendous leg injury whilst representing France which ended his season prematurely.  Whilst Amavi showed moments of exceptional talent, he was also a very raw and mistake prone player.  With the benefit of a full recovery and maturity, there is potentially  very fine player who can threaten defences as well as protecting our own.  One of few to be retained on promise alone.

Nathan Baker

Very much a marmite player for Villa who is currently on loan at struggling Championship side Bristol City.  Despite their struggles, Baker has seen an upturn in form.  Whilst still recognised for his uncompromising style of play, his solidity and no nonsense defending has earned him plaudits.  Whilst this more agricultural approach didn’t win him many adoring fans as Villa languished, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him return to the fold with a season at Championship level under his belt.

Kieran Richardson

One of a long line of footballers who have always looked better playing against us than for us.  Also, it became obvious very soon after arriving that Richardson’s legs just weren’t up for it.  Whilst he can’t be knocked for effort, the quality is severely lacking.  An imminent release surely looms in June 2016.

Micah Richards

The current Captain makes all of the right noises off the pitch but has put in a great number of dodgy displays on it.  After a bizarre plea to play centre back, he has since been forced to accept right back where there has been some improvement.  For all of the effort, there are serious questions to be asked about consistency and decision making.  However, if Micah is up for the challenge, he could reinvent himself with Villa in the Championship & lead by example.  Strong, mature & with a point to prove, he is the right type character to keep in the dressing room.

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Leandro Bacuna

A player who has badly lost his way.  Neither a good defender nor a proficient midfielder.  The ability to pass a football to your own side is lost on the man.  It has to be over for the Dutchman, the only thing standing in the way being a ludicrous long term contract awarded to him.  Everything points to him being moved on, but N’Zogbia syndrome may yet strike…

Jack Grealish

Another in a long line of Villa youngsters rewarded with wealth for achieving very little.  Grealish possesses all of the attributes to hurt teams, but has suffered a major set back in his development owing to poor life choices & the absence of any form.  Confidence and maturity will be key to seeing Jack flourish, especially in a division that will not offer him much protection from a firm boot.

Adrissa ‘Gana’ Gueye

Gana started his Villa career so brightly that it is sad to see him being so very average.  I’ve written before about his willingness to run and hassle, but this counts for little if it hardly impacts upon the game.  Gana is also a very small man, similar in build to Ashley Westwood & contributes little in terms of either goals or assists.  Whilst a drop down may suit him, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Villa listening to offers if they are forthcoming.

Ashley Westwood

Another Villa player who has been rewarded with a long contract extension which sees him tied to the club until 2020.  After rising through the ranks at Crewe, Westwood has been a distinctly average player in an increasingly poor Villa side.  Infamous for sideways passing, he neither creates enough nor scores.  Added to this concerns about his slight frame and quiet manner, it’s hard to see exactly what he brings to the team.  It’s also difficult to see Westwood as the means by which to rebuild the club, but equally unlikely the club parting with him given the improved deal signed only last summer.

Carlos Sanchez

The Colombian international has become very much a marmite player at the club.  Whilst possessing superb skill, he is guilty of a string of terrible mistakes leading to goals or chances for the opposition.  This overly casual approach, coupled with an increasing amount of time on the injury table count ultimately against him.  Expect to see him back in South America before you know it; I just can’t imagine him turning out in Brentford.

Gary Gardner

After endless loans to Nottingham Forest and equal periods of time injured, maybe now is the time for the 23 year old.  He has seemingly forever been referred to as the next mercurial talent, but has an unfortunate stigma for both sick note and constant loan deals away from the club.  Contracted to Villa until 2018, this has to be last chance saloon to kickstart a career.

Charles N’Zogbia

The biggest waste of time, money and talent at a club which has specialised in it.  His release in summer 2016 cannot come soon enough & I truly hope no other team see’s fit to employ this charlatan.

Carles Gil

The young Spaniard has suffered greatly for changes in leadership, styles and general upheaval at Villa Park.  Arguably the most talented footballer at the club, he can be guilty of overplaying or simply thinking too quickly for those around him.  Gil is one of few who may have suitors in the summer window, with noises already made of a return to La Liga.  Gil is contracted until 2019 and is very much seen as part of the future plan, but he cannot be expected to do it alone.  Retaining his services are really quite important given our inability to attract similar calibre players for the foreseeable future.

Adama Traore

A raw and exciting attacking talent who has a concerning injury prone-ness.  Signed at great expense and on a costly performance/bonus based package, he has come to personify the hypocrisy of Villa’s ‘austere’ recruitment.  Whilst his talent is there for all to see, he has been used both sparingly and at times where games have often already been decided.  Traore has all of the physical traits to power a return to the top flight, but only if surrounded by similar players and coached to use his skills to better effect.

Jordan Veretout

A slow burner whose limited grasp of English caused challenges with Sherwood, he has grown into a footballer under Garde whom could blossom further.  Veretout has the qualities necessary to unlock defences and isn’t afraid to mix the physical side of the game as well.  As an 18 year old at Nantes he was key to their promotion from Ligue 2 to Ligue 1.  Such experiences may be invaluable.

Scott Sinclair

A real puzzle since he permanently joined the club.  Sinclair shows moments of obvious quality, but is too often a passenger in a team that needs willing runners.  Far too many times one has been left wondering if he actually was on the pitch.  The great shame is that those moments of quality often stick in the mind, but the hours of mediocrity are most telling.  Whilst he could probably cause damage to Championship defences, I wouldn’t be surprised (or that bothered) if a lower/middling Premiership team took a punt on his services and he departed. 

Gabby Agbonlahor

Veteran striker who has perhaps sits as a fine example of the rewards of the modern game for limited return.  Awardedvwith a 5 year deal despite his powers having long since faded; occasional threat, too few goals and a very questionable attitude.  It may be that the club is ultimately stuck with someone who is at best a Championship striker.  I’m not sure what this means, but it’s not the future as it should be.

Rudy Gestede

One of very few footballers who I can honestly say I’m unsure as to what his attributes are.  Some say his aerial threat is it, but the jury is still out.  He has also been described as “the most Championship player I’ve ever seen”.  If Villa are going to be successful with Rudy leading the line it really isn’t going to be pretty and the £7 million we paid Blackburn looks a major overspend.  I expect him to remain a peripheral figure at best or be offloaded if an offer should miraculously emerge.

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Libor Kozak

Kozak’s career with Villa has never really got going.  It is actually many years ago that there might have been signs of a partnership with Christian Benteke forming, but after 2 years out following an awful leg break he’s struggled for form, fitness & to convince successive managers.  Sometimes you have to accept it isn’t to be & it has to be reasonably assumed that he will move on for a nominal fee or continue in the current vain until 2017.

Jordan Ayew

Perhaps one bright spark amongst many very indifferent faces.  Ayew has been another slow burner, but has built a steady reputation for work rate and spectacular goals.  Ayew also appears to have the ability to create chances for himself, a Benteke like trait that can serve a team well.  Villa’s biggest challenge may be retaining the Ghanaian, who should surely flourish against lessor defences.

Callum Robinson

The 21 year old has been on successive loans to Preston North End as well as a stint at Bristol City.  A highly thought of product of the academy system, he has shone in bursts despite not getting extended runs whilst on loan, often preferred as a back up.  There are question marks about his physical size and also a yet to be prolific return in terms of goal to game ratio at this level.  To date his recognition remains at the youth level where he earned plaudits for Villa at U18, Youth Cup and NextGen series.