Why Ron Vlaar Is Aston Villa's Player of the Season so Far

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterOctober 29, 2012

BREMEN, GERMANY - AUGUST 11:  Ron Vlaar of Aston Villa during a preseason friendly match between Werder Bremen and Aston Villa at Weserstadion on August 11, 2012 in Bremen, Germany.  (Photo by Martin Stoever/Getty Images)
Martin Stoever/Getty Images

Aston Villa has endured a difficult start to the season after winning just one game from a possible nine. It's conceded 14 goals, which isn't a stellar record, but it still stands that a centre-back is its most impressive performer.

Ron Vlaar, a £3 million acquisition from Feyenoord this summer, has been Paul Lambert's standout player so far this season, bettering the heroics of Brad Guzan, Karim El Ahmadi and Christian Benteke.

There were initial fears, it has to be said. Vlaar's less-than-convincing performances on duty for the Netherlands during Euro 2012 were something of a hazard light for some fans; then again, not one player in that squad performed well in Poland and Ukraine.

Much like the heavily purported idea of not judging a player on his superlative performances in a major international tournament, the reverse should apply in that poor showings can be discounted.

After all, he was Feyenoord's captain for a reason and a huge fan favourite with De Trots van Zuid.

For many Villa fans, the 2008/09 season is both the best and worst campaign in recent memory.

Five months in and the claret and blue side was well in the mix for a place in the top four, 10 points ahead of an ailing Arsenal and leagues above Tottenham, Newcastle and Fulham et al.

They were the de facto best team in the Midlands—a title very important to fans of the club—and the team boasted talents such as Ashley Young, James Milner and Brad Friedel.

But the best performer, by a mile, was captain fantastic Martin Laursen. The Great Dane had come from AC Milan years earlier but had struggled to string three games together as a chronic knee injury plagued his career.

A visit to the U.S. doctor Richard Steadman saw him pick up his boots week on week and it appeared the problems were fixed, as he led the team out to victory after victory.

But a setback, followed by a rushed return for the Midlands derby against West Bromwich Albion ultimately saw Laursen's knee give in. His retirement was announced, and Villa fans have been left wanting ever since.

Replacements have come and gone. Richard Dunne, James Collins, Curtis Davies, Carlos Cuellar. All have failed to replicate the world-class abilities of the man who Villa fans compared to the mighty Paul McGrath.

Watching Ron Vlaar in a Villa shirt reminds me of my favourite ever player, Martin Laursen.

He has an excellent positional sense, seems uncompromising in the challenge and dominates in the air. There's a reason they call him "Concrete Ron," you know.

He's already set a solid marker, winning 22 of his 30 aerial duels and making 6.9 clearances per game.

The Dutchman has a lot of work to do in order to endear himself to the fans on the level his Danish predecessor did, but he's going about it fast.

Villa's captain is key to surviving this season.