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The Kids Are Alright

By Martin Laurence on Apr 11, 12 05:34 PM in Aston Villa FC

With a plethora of injuries mounting up at just the wrong time of the season, even the majority who don't want the manager in place can notice that the gods seem to be against him right now.

The average age of Villa's outfield ten against Chelsea recently was just over 23 and a similar side has lined up since. The reality of the matter is that Villa will most likely field an inexperienced side until the end of the season, but can we get away with calling a number of our young stars youngsters anymore, and are the majority any better than alright?

The fact is that Chris Herd turned 23 last week, joining Eric Lichaj at that age. Barry Bannan, Ciaran Clark and Marc Albrighton are all 22 and at that age are developing at a decent pace, though Bannan is perhaps the only one of that trio to have made strides this season, with Clark admittedly sidelined for much of the campaign.

Albrighton, like last season, is the graduate to have featured the most this time around though disrupted runs in the side have led to disrupted form, as was the issue in the tail end of his previous season. Up until that point he had been the brightest spark in a bleak tenure under Gerard Houllier.

The Tamworth-born winger was an attacking force last season, averaging 1.4 shots per game, 1.2 key passes per game and 1.3 dribbles per game on his way to 5 goals and 4 assists in 20 starts. This time around he has started 13 games and his averages are down to 0.9 for shots, 0.9 for key passes and just 0.5 per game for dribbles, perhaps highlighting a dip in confidence more than anything else.

Bannan has only started 9 matches this season, though creatively he has impressed, laying on 1.4 chances per game despite a limited playing time. The little Scot's pass accuracy is also up on those with whom he came through, but at 76% is unspectacular. However, it is Chris Herd's passing which undoubtedly needs the most work.

The Aussie has a pass accuracy of just 66.3%, which is only better than Emile Heskey at the club and extremely poor for a central midfielder. While his passing may be in question there is no doubt that Herd is an able and willing defensive force. He has averaged 2.3 tackles per game, 2.1 interceptions per game and won 1.3 aerial duels per game. He also has the heart of a lion, putting his head quite literally on the line on 3 occasions against Stoke, and where no man has before - in the path of Robert Huth!

The problem may lie in the fact that Martin O'Neill rarely looked to the youth before he left, with Nathan Delfouneso the only prospect that he tended to favour, and the Fonz has failed to take off. Now, a few years down the line, it is fair to say that while these players are showing great commitment to the cause some of their technical abilities are a little under developed on the biggest stage, and with 8 games left in the season under developed isn't really what we're after.

Mind you, under developed is hardly a term you'd use to describe Andi Weimann's strike on Monday, in complete contrast to his first head-cum-chest-cum-knee goal for the club against Fulham. In conclusion, these guys are better than alright, but also most are a little older than kids now!

All figures courtesy of football statistics site www.WhoScored.com. Follow @WhoScored.

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Sport authors

Martin Laurence

Martin Laurence is a lifelong Aston Villa fan, statistical analyst and editor-in-chief at www.WhoScored.com. My Posts

Chris Quinn

Chris Quinn is a journalism graduate who has been a season ticket holder at Birmingham City for 10 years. My Posts

Richard Jefferson

Richard Jefferson is a West Bromwich Albion season ticket holder of more than 30 years and contributes to wbaunofficial
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Graham Large

Graham Large is a Wolverhampton Wanderers season ticket holder and Executive Editor of itsroundanditswhite.co.uk
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