Arsenal have one injured central defender and have had to resort to playing a left-back in the middle. Newcastle also had two left-backs in their starting line-up for the draw with Burnley.
This is a position where Aston Villa are certainly not short of options. In fact, they probably have a deeper squad in this position than any other Premier League club.
Based on this season’s pecking order, current pairing Ciaran Clark and Jores Okore are fourth and fifth choice, while Matt Lowton and Chris Herd can fill in if any further injuries are endured in this position.
Below is a graphic showing how Villa have fared when starting each of their centre halves in the Premier League this season.
The results suggest that Vlaar should be in the starting pair when fit, but the club have only won four per cent more games with the Dutchman than without him and he missed the tougher fixtures with all of last season’s top four.
A feature of the early-season partnership of Vlaar and Philippe Senderos was their desire to put their bodies on the line, heading, blocking and intercepting every shot fired towards Brad Guzan.
This has been a feature of Clark and Okore’s latest partnership, with the Irishman blossoming in the senior role, while Okore benefits from a first run in the side since signing for the club.
Although he is still prone to the odd mistake, there is every chance that in the next 12 months he will be best of the five. Okore is still to taste defeat this season too.
Meanwhile, Clark has made 26 clearances in the last two games, which should have been successive clean sheets had Okore not handed Burnley a debateable late penalty.
What this means for Villa is that they can afford to sell Vlaar in January rather than lose him for nothing when his contract expires in the summer.
Prices of £8m have been bandied about, but it is unlikely that Manchester United are Arsenal will pay such a sum when they have all of the cards stacked in their favour. Expect an offer of no more than half of this amount.
Yet to a Villa side with little in the way of money to spend and in desperate need of midfield creativity, this may be enough to strengthen in this regard in January, especially if Joe Cole fails to overcome the injury problems that have been the highlight of his career at the club to date.
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