With Ron Vlaar declaring himself fit for our trip to Manchester United at the weekend adding a timely boost to Sherwood’s defensive ranks, it got me thinking about Villa’s forgotten man. With contract negotiations seemingly at an impasse, the reality for most Villa fans is that the defender will leave at the end of the season.
While this might seem like a loss for the club and yet another backward step, Vlaar’s departure wouldn’t be as bad as it sounds.
Interest in ‘Roncrete’ has increased since Vlaar’s stand out performances at last summer’s World Cup. Links with Louis Van Gaal’s United revolution are never far away and Ronald Koeman is a keen admirer. He has also been touted as the answer to Arsenal’s defensive problems.
Let’s be honest, though. There have only been a few occasions us Villa fans have seen the Dutchman hit the heights we saw at the World Cup.
Yes, he is a leader - something our team desperately needs - but that alone isn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Vlaar. For the money we paid for him, he’s proved a good buy, with his towering performance in the 6-1 defeat of Sunderland in 2013 sticking in my mind.
But he is error prone and his performances are littered with lapses in concentration - just look at his showing in Tim Sherwood’s first league game as manager against Stoke.
His World Cup performances came as a surprise to most, especially Villa fans. But the truth is he was playing to his maximum potential then and may never reach those heights again.
This brings me on to my second point
Paul Lambert left us with two legacies that we can be thankful for. Firstly, the FA cup run, which has culminated with a trip to Wembley and the second, and the most important, the signings of Fabian Delph and Jack Grealish. Convincing Delph to sign a new deal ranks as one of Lambert’s best achievements as Villa boss, along with the signing of Christian Benteke.
Delph is the main reason Vlaar’s exit would not be such an issue. The 25-year-old has emerged as the new leader and as an England international, he has taken it upon himself to be Villas pulse and is the man Sherwood wants to build his team around.
It would have been a lot harder to replace Delph than it would be to replace Vlaar. And a lot more expensive.
It’s not like Vlaar has been an integral part of the team this season. The Dutch centre half has spent more time in the medical room than on the pitch. But his injuries have created opportunities for others. Step forward Jores Okore. The emergence of the young Dane is one of the positives of the season. The man with Champions League experience, who reportedly chose Villa Park over Chelsea, is finally realising his potential and looks like the man who can form the heart of Villa’s defence.
The emergence of Grealish, a young, hungry player who on the few opportunities given to him looks talented, gives Sherwood someone who can unlock defences and take players on. His rise could also save us money in years to come.
So, if Vlaar does leave, Sherwood can look to replace him or use the resources already at his disposal. I don’t see it as a major loss.
Let’s just hope we see his vision while we’re still in the Premier League.