Could you build a team around him? (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
So I was having a bit of trouble coming up with a good question for this week. Transfers had been beaten to death. The team is mired, as Aaron pointed out, in a rather boring stretch. So I had to work to find something interesting for us.
One of the things I often discuss with my old roommate is: if you had to build a ____ team around any player, who would it be? We usually tackle football, baseball, and basketball. But it's an equally interesting question in soccer. If you can have anyone in the whole world, I imagine most of us would pick from the Xavis and Messis. And maybe we'll eventually do that. But this time is a bit different.
This week's question: Assume, for a moment, that something calamitous has happened and Villa must rid themselves of every player but one. From that one they are allowed to rebuild their team. Who do you choose to remain a Villan and why?
As always, be sure to give us your answer in the comments below.
Aaron: I'm going to go in a different direction with this one, because when I look at the young players I see a lot of promising players that could be part of a very good team but none that look to be anything close to a sure bet to become a centerpiece. So with that in mind, the question has to be of which position it is most difficult (or expensive) to find quality players. Given the amount of money we saw splashed about this January, it's pretty clear that the answer to that question is "striker" and with that being the case I'll go with Nathan Delfouneso.
Delfouneso hasn't been incredible in any sense of the word, but he's certainly shown flashes and it's important to remember that he just turned 20 years old. He might not be a centerpiece type of player, but he appears to be good enough to build around to some extent. What's more (and this is one of the biggest factors in my arriving at this decision) unless he completely flames out he's always going to have a fair amount of value. Teams pay for strikers, even ordinary ones, and that's especially true of English strikers. Delfouneso plays a premium position and has a built-in boost to his value due solely to his nationality. For a team in the position of having to build from the ground up, that's a pretty good asset to have.
Gareth:This is a scarier prospect than I thought. My first instinct in this sort of situation is to pick a good young defender or goalkeeper, for a sense of solidity. Unfortunately, we don't have that option available. I can't help but think that Darren Bent is a little too old to build around. Ideally, you want to pick someone who's just coming into their prime, rather than squarely in the middle of it. I would love to pick one of the young guys, but I haven't seen enough of Delph and Delfouneso. And I don't think Albrighton and Bannan are elite-level talents, to be honest. Bannan might be, but that size deficiency really hinders him from being that sort of player (Charlie Adam for Blackpool, for example.)
So reluctantly, I'm going with Ashley Young. I think officially declaring him as the "franchise player," to use an Americanism, would help to give him the confidence and motivation he needs to really take his game to that elusive next level. I've said before that I always like seeing him take the captain's armband, and this would be the logical extension of that. Unfortunately, I'm not sure people at the club see him as much more than a transfer chip, as they did with Milner, who absolutely would have been my answer to this a year ago.
Kirsten: I feel like I'm becoming a broken record in the "Build Around Barry Bannan" campaign, but I have to disagree with Gareth about not wanting Baz to be the player to build a team around. While he might not slot into the Villa system at the moment, there's no reason to believe a team can't be constructed around him, particularly with Aaron's vision of him as the trequartista. Move Bannan up to where Ash is and build the team that way. He's clever, and as a clever playmaker he can certainly direct a team. While he might not be first in line in this Villa regime, killing off all the rest and keeping Baz would show exactly what the wee man could do.
Of course, we'd have to resurrect Marc Albrighton because otherwise Bazza would be way too sad...
Robert: One nice thing about doing this with Villa is the ability to ignore contracts. We don't have any contracts that are team-crippling. Even if you choose Darren Bent, he's not going to financially sink the ship. But even so, this is pretty tricky. I want someone who has a few years ahead of him, and someone who still has potential to grow. Also, you need a star-caliber player.
So to the easy part: no one in the back third of the field qualifies. At least no one that we have. Heskey is a bit old for my tastes, and I don't think I want to build a team around a (blue-ribbon winning) one-trick pony like Bent. If I'm realistic, I come up with a short list of Albrighton/Downing/Young/Bannan. If I'm designing Villa from scratch, I want a speedy team that has creativity in spades. It's more fun to watch, and has the potential to win just because it would be different. I don't think Ash has the creative spark I'm looking for. So Marc, Stewie, and Bazza are the three I'm left with.
Marc has the potential to be amazing, but he plays stupidly so often that I can't endorse him as a "build around" sort of a guy. He could be the best player on a team, but you need your core guy to be a bit of a leader, too. I'm hesitant to pick Stewie mostly because everyone would say it's a homer pick. But I'm ok with picking Bazza merely because he has the potential to be a front-playing Makoun. Someone who provides a great link from the backfield, and also has a keen scoring touch. His size is a disadvantage, to be sure, but it's one I think he can overcome. I hope you'll all buy tickets to see Bazza and his Villans.