Nathan Baker and Ashley Westwood contribute to positive mood at Aston Villa

Aston Villa 2

Aston Villa’s recent solidity has been built on some impressive young players, with Baker and Westwood standing out for Lambert’s side.

Whilst Villa are still hovering around the relegation zone at the moment, the form they have displayed in the past few matches gives the fans plenty of reason to expect that their team will be safe enough this year.

The importance of a solid defence cannot be overstated this season, with Stoke, West Ham and Norwich demonstrating how building from the back can see a team climb the table, and Villa now seem to be emulating those sides.

They are unbeaten in four matches, and have three clean sheets from those games. Central to those performances has been a batch of talented youngsters, and that emergence of youth players has contributed to the positivity around the club’s fans.

The average age of Villa’s starting eleven against Stoke was a shade under 24, with Guzan and Holman the eldest players at 28. With Ron Vlaar out injured, the defence has been particularly youthful, as the 21 year old Baker has come in alongside the 23-year-old Ciaran Clark.

Baker has been superb in the three matches he has played recently, and with Lambert demonstrating on many occasions already that he is happy to play in form youngsters over more established senior players, Baker could well be a part of the side for a while yet.

Whilst Baker has come to the fore recently, Ashley Westwood has been an important part of the side since early November. Sitting in front of the back four, Westwood has been an effective screen for his defence, with Villa picking up four clean sheets in the seven matches he has started.

Westwood is also comfortable on the ball with an 86.5% successful pass completion rate for Villa this season, helping to ensure his side keep enough of the ball to reduce the pressure on their back line.

Villa have a tricky festive fixture list coming up, and their fans have to hope that the defensive solidity their team has shown demonstrating of late can be carried through the next few weeks.

With clean sheets at a premium for most sides in the English league this season, the teams that have organised themselves well have been successful no matter who they’ve played against.

If the likes of Westwood and Baker continue to impress, and Villa maintain their tight defense, they should find themselves climbing comfortably clear of the relegation zone.

images: © ell brown, © ellbrown

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