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Author Topic: Four-midable  (Read 960 times)

Offline dave.woodhall

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« on: February 17, 2021, 12:18:32 AM »
Thereís certainly a number of contenders for our most improved player this season. Douglas Luiz had a very good end to last season and he carried his Project Restart form into the first half of this one. Matt Targett, who had received criticism from some supporters last season for his defensive performances, has put that right, turning in some outstanding displays at left back this season. He showed plenty going forward in his first season at Villa Park, often linking with Jack, as his last minute, match-winning goal at home to Brighton and his League Cup semi-final opener against Leicester City demonstrated but he hasnít needed to venture forward quite as much this term, given the array of attacking talents that he now has in front of him. Both of those players have been pretty much ever-presents this season, as has another man, who has perhaps outshone them both: Ezri Konsa.

Last season, in his first term at Villa Park too, Konsa notched up a respectable 25 league appearances and grew progressively into his role in the side, challenging the Mings-Engels partnership which started the season so well, even though we were leaking too many goals. This season, as part of an all English back four (and, as well as Targettís, Matty Cashís contribution in his first season in the Premier League should be highly applauded too), Konsa has formed a reliable and assured partnership with Tyrone Mings in central defence. Many think it can only be a matter of time before Ezri joins Tyrone in the England squad, though that doesnít take into account the seeming reluctance of the England manager to reward the form of players from his old club in the same way he does those at others.

Centre-halves are always best talked about as partnerships and whilst Mingsí performances can be a little more variable (though his two most recent games have been outstanding, with the big man pushing Emi Martinez all the way for man of the match in keeping first Arsenal and then Brighton goalless), Konsa has been consistency personified this season. He brings a calm, reassuring, competitive presence to the Villaís backline and appears to be an increasing influence on those around him, not afraid to voice his opinion even to the most consistent of team mates Ė more than once this season, him and Martinez have exchanged words on who should have dealt with a through ball.

As a partnership, Ezri and big Tyrone have some impressive predecessors to live up to in those number 4 and 5 shirts. I always think of the number 5 as being more of the physical defender in the partnership, though certainly Allan Evans might dispute that with Ken McNaught, as might Shaun Teale with Paul McGrath. God wore both the number 4 and 5 shirts for Villa (he could have played anywhere), big Derek Mountfield wearing number 5 in the season Graham Taylorís side finished as runners-up Ė clearly, back then shirt numbers for defenders were assigned on size, the even bigger Kent Nielsen wearing number 6 and forming a back three that not too many strikers dared to get on the wrong side of.

Both Konsa and Mings are comfortable on the ball, with the latter perhaps more adventurous in his distribution, though some would say he is occasionally too casual in playing out from the back. Whilst he clearly doesnít mind having the ball, Konsa seems happiest just defending, ensuring heís in the correct position as Mings marshalls that back line - this is an aspect that the big man probably doesnít receive as much credit for as heís due. He quickly assumed that leadership role at Villa, and itís without a doubt, a key contribution to any side, the importance of which is brought home to us as Villa supporters when we think back to our recent, frequent nearly-relegated and relegated sides, in which leadership on the pitch was something we were woefully lacking. In the centre of defence, Concrete Ron Vlaar did his best and was an influence that helped keep a poor side up. In the same roles, Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott were sadly much less so and we all know how that ended up.

Even when Konsa is occasionally caught out of position, he has the pace and determination to get back and defend Martinezís goal. His booking against Arsenal was an example of this, where he managed to get back in front of Bukayo Saka, itself no mean feat given his pace. Ezriís no slouch though, as that incredible stat from earlier in the season showed, where up until the Manchester City game, he was the only defender in the Premier League not to have been dribbled past by an opponent. In that duel with Saka, Ezri looked to me to be the one who was initially fouled. The referee gave the attacker the advantage but regardless of the justice of that decision, the incident showed both how streetwise Konsa has become as a Premier League defender and his willingness to defend at all costs.

He isnít the first Villa number 4 to have that as an underlying principle. Teale is a great example of that, as is Olof Mellberg, a man who always gave everything in claret and blue and remains perhaps underrated for his performances at the club. What a partnership his was alongside Martin Laursen, if only he could have stayed fitter for longer. Who was the more physical of those two, wearing Villaís number 4 and number 5, now thatís a tough call? Perhaps the Swede, though the Dane might rightly have claimed to be the better on the ball. All of those players liked a goal from a set piece and thatís another aspect of Konsaís game which is improving. Heís looked threatening at the back post all season and it took his headed goal to break the deadlock against Sheffield Unitedís ten men on the opening day and he also slid in an equaliser against Brighton at Villa Park. Unlike his precious, injury time strike at home to Watford last season, his defensive partner hasnít been able to pinch either of those off him.

 Ezri got off the mark in the Premier League at Goodison Park near the end of the season, when the two points dropped looked as though they may prove crucial in our battle against the drop. Hindsight is of course a great thing and now that can be viewed as a hard-fought point, one of five in the last three games which enabled the Great Escape. 

To help them draw those comparisons to legendary partnerships in the centre of Villaís defence, Konsa and Mings have certainly benefitted from the presence of two centre-halves in the management team. Dean Smith and John Terry spent their careers in the very same roles that they are now getting the best out of Ezri and Tyrone in. Shared experiences and hard work, on and off the training pitch, has obviously played a key role in massively raising the bar for our defensive performances.

Some may have doubted Deanoís investment of an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £12 million for a player heíd previously signed for Brentford. After a season to settle in, having now contributed significantly to a backline that can boast twelve clean sheets (Konsa has been in the side for nine and a half of those, the half coming with ten men against Crystal Palace when he replaced Traore after Mings had been sent off) in the first 22 league games this season, that transfer fee is looking like money extremely well spent on the latest in a long line of impressive Villa number 4s. Surely, international recognition can only be around the corner for Ezri Konsa, just as long as he continues his formidable performances at the heart of our defence. 

Robin Wilkes

Offline JD

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Re: Four-midable
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2021, 06:23:45 AM »
Excellent article Robin about a player who is going to get better and better.

Already interest in him from other teams (according to BBC). Ezri is going to hopefully be a very important player for Villa over the next 5+ years. 

Offline ldavfc4eva

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Re: Four-midable
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2021, 09:56:18 PM »
Excellent article Robin

Offline robbo1874

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Re: Four-midable
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2021, 02:25:00 AM »
I thought we missed a trick not signing axl permanently, but Konsa has been fantastic this season after learning the ropes last season.

Offline robbo1874

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Re: Four-midable
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2021, 02:29:23 AM »
Also think Southgate and big Ugo mightíve warranted a mention as a partnership, but only a minor criticism of a well-written yarn.

Online West Derby Villan

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Re: Four-midable
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2021, 11:43:48 AM »
Great read Robin

Offline N'ZMAV

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Re: Four-midable
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2021, 06:57:25 PM »
No positive mention for Richards and Lescott?  ;D

Good article. Konsa is looking classy :)


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