BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - APRIL 21: Stephane Sessegnon of Sunderland battles with Nathan Baker of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sunderland at Villa Park on April 21, 2012 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
If I'm totally honest, I remember very little of what Nathan Baker did this season. At least I didn't until I started doing some research. For some reason, in my head, I kept getting ready to write the review of Gary Gardner. Then I'd look at our little list of who is writing what, remind myself that I was covering Nathan Baker, go back to whoscored.com, and promptly forget who I was supposed to be looking up. He's just not a The defender began the year as depth in the center, and Aaron wrote that both Baker and Shane Lowry were not "likely to break into the rotation any time soon," they were still nice to have around as depth.
And it turned out to be depth that was needed. In November, Baker was sent for a one-month loan to Millwall where he appeared in six matches, starting in four. Of those four, Millwall managed to hold the opponent to zero goals in three. It's hard to tell how much of this was Baker's doing, but it's obvious he didn't hurt his loan team any. He played his last match with Millwall on boxing day before returning to Villa where he would keep the bench warm for a month.
When he finally did make it into a match for Villa, it seemed almost accidental. He came on in stoppage time during the February 12 match against Manchester City to take the place of an injured Richard Dunne. He wouldn't see the pitch again until the end of March, when he started against Chelsea and looked terrible. He started the next six matches and got progressively better as time went by. Taking the place of injured regulars, he had his best performance in the 0-0 draw to Sunderland at Villa Park.
Overall, it's hard to really grade Baker on the season. He rarely looked atrocious, but he also rarely stood out as an exemplar of what the defense needed to be. In terms of what to expect next season, I see Baker as fulfilling a backup role again, though if some players get moved in the summer, he might be able to eek his way into starting every now and again.
And that's not a bad thing for Aston Villa. Baker isn't quite ready to be a full-time starter (which is okay, he's only 21), but there's some promise there. If he continues to get better, Villa may have a home-grown defender on our hands, and that would be great. If he doesn't, he's a capable sub at this point, and there's worse things for a player to be.