Return of the King - Cuellar's Comeback
While the long term injury to Richard Dunne may have struck fear into those of a superstitious nature, with Birmingham having gone on a terrible run in the league under McLeish following the injury of the almost identically named Dann last season, they needn't have worried with the reliable Carlos Cuellar in reserve.
Whether the Spaniard should be considered as more than just a reserve splits opinions amongst the fans, but more often than not, when played in his favoured centre-back position, he duly delivers. A firm favourite in and around the club, Cuellar is yet to be offered a new contract with his current deal set to expire this summer and failure to do so, in my opinion, would be a grave error on McLeish's part.
As an analyst for statistical football site WhoScored.com, I have the privilege of being privy to figures that most are not. When it was confirmed that Dunne had broken his collarbone in the match against Manchester City last month, my instant reaction was to check the record of his incoming understudy.
As Cuellar was signed as a centre-back, it is only really fair on the fondly-coined 'King' that his displays in that position took centre stage. Of a possible 104 league appearances over the previous two seasons and this, it seems unjust that arguably our most consistent defender has made just 24 starts in the heart of the back line. In comparison, mainstay Dunne has started 92 matches, with usual partner Collins close behind on 81.
However, when looking at the win ratios of the side when each of the respective trio has started at centre-back, Cuellar's figures unsurprisingly lead the way. Villa have won 10 of the aforementioned 24 starts the former Rangers man has made, meaning their win ratio when he is present is almost 42%. In contrast, when Collins and Dunne have been partnered at the back, Villa have won just 32% of the time.
Admittedly, Villa have lost a higher percentage of their league matches when Cuellar starts at centre-half (33%) than Dunne (28%) or Collins (26%) but the most important fact is that the points per game rate is higher when Carlos features. Equally essential, the side concedes fewer goals per game with Cuellar in the side (1.13) than Dunne (1.27) or Collins (1.22).
So now I have bored you with the numbers, here is a purely emotional plea as to why Cuellar must be kept. He is a loyal and friendly character around Bodymoor and is desperate to stay at the club. While 'power players' Dunne and Collins have had disagreements with players and the former management in the past, Cuellar has merely worked to get into the first team and is clearly delighted to have finally got his chance.
So I sign off my debut blog for the Birmingham Post with the claim that the club must respect the King, give Carlos a new contract and reap the rewards, but of course, most importantly, UTV!
*All figures courtesy of statistical football website www.whoscored.com