Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star
Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Saturday 30 August 2014
Aston Villa fans could have been forgiven for pinching themselves during the World Cup this summer. After all, that commanding, composed No 2 in the Netherlands shirt really was Ron Vlaar, a player they had watched vainly trying to plug a youthful, error-prone Villa back line during the past two seasons.
It appeared quite a transformation for a player who was at the heart of a defence with the worst goals-against record outside the three relegated clubs in last season’s Premier League, but for those in the inner circle at Villa Park, it was no surprise. “Yeah, we train with him every day so we know what he can do and finally other people have seen that,” says Andi Weimann, Villa’s Austrian forward.
The Dutchman’s displays in Brazil also underline just why the club’s fans will be relieved when the transfer window shuts tomorrow with Vlaar, now entering the final year of his deal, still at Villa. Their promising start to the season – four points and two clean sheets – hint at a new-found defensive resolve and Vlaar’s presence is crucial.
Ronald Koeman, his former Feyenoord coach, has made no secret of his wish to take the 29-year-old to Southampton yet Vlaar remaining would underline the renewed optimism around Villa Park after several seasons of drift and decline. Weimann, only 23 but a Villa player for seven years now, appreciates this better than most and is hoping that nothing untoward happens on tomorrow’s deadline day. Like everyone else at the club he is desperately hoping that Vlaar stays. “Of course, he is our captain and important to the club,” he says.
At the club’s Bodymoor Heath training ground on Thursday, he said there is an extra bounce in his skipper’s step post-Brazil. “He was brilliant in the World Cup, and in the first few games he has shown exactly the same as he did there.
“He was always our leader and our captain, he was always vocal and we always looked up to him in the changing room. That hasn’t really changed, but [with] the performances he has put in, there have definitely been signs that he has grown in confidence and knows what he can do now. Playing in the World Cup like that must obviously give anybody more confidence and it has definitely helped him.”
The feeling that it is a less flaky Villa side this season is enhanced by looking at Vlaar’s fellow defenders. Manager Paul Lambert’s U-turn on his recruitment policy – supported by owner Randy Lerner, now more actively involved after his failure to sell the club – means that the Dutchman no longer has to carry an inexperienced defence on his own.
Now he has two experienced full-backs alongside him in Alan Hutton – back in favour after two years on loan – and Aly Cissokho. He also has a new central defensive partner in Philippe Senderos to share the organisational duties. “Phil likes to talk a lot before the game,” says Weimann. “Maybe that helps a bit. In the first two games we looked really solid.”
Those close to the club cite a successful pre-season tour of the United States as an important step towards restoring the feel-good factor to the Villa dressing room, along with Roy Keane’s arrival as the new assistant manager. Weimann, a pacy wide attacker, kept it going by scoring the only goal at Stoke on the opening day. It was boosted further on Thursday by an England call-up for Fabian Delph. “Last year he was probably our player of the season,” says Weimann, himself an Austrian international. He smiles when asked if Delph might be daunted by the step-up. “I don’t think he’ll struggle with that,” he says. “He’s a midfielder who likes to get stuck in but he’s also really good with the ball.”
The potential arrival of Tom Cleverley from Manchester United would add another midfield option but what Villa really need are a few home wins, starting against Hull at lunchtime today. Weimann scored twice in the 3-1 win over Hull that secured Villa’s survival in May and knows they must do better. “The last two seasons we haven’t been good enough at Villa Park.” They lost a club record 10 league matches at home last term and, with Christian Benteke not back from injury, have yet to score at home this season. With Darren Bent firing blanks on Wednesday, they lost 1-0 to Leyton Orient in the Capital One Cup after a goalless draw with Newcastle last Saturday. Villa may have stopped giving goals away but the puzzle is hardly solved.
Aston Villa v Hull today, kick-off 1.30pm
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