Aston Villa shouldn't have to rely upon youthful inexperience

“The winter months have not been kind to Vila’s inexperienced side” parped the BBC Sport’s website following their home defeat to Southampton the Saturday previous and it’s hard to disagree with the sentiment of that.

Having scored only once in their last six games at home and conceded 22 goals in their last seven games in all competitions, Paul Lambert’s young side have spent much of the season swimming against the tide.

And, it’s the youth and relative inexperience of this team that has attributed to Villa’s steady slide towards the bottom half.

The average age of the starting line-up against Southampton was 23-years-old and this statistic is regularly trotted out in unison by pundits on Match of the Day and Sky Sports.

This lack of experience has been highlighted on a number of occasions – usually after a defeat – and almost become a crutch for Villa fans to lean on to help them come to terms with another abject Saturday afternoon in Aston.

And the idea that Villa have little choice but to play a band of plucky, but inexperienced and naive players is warming in a sense, as if they’re the plucky underdog trying to get by with what little resources they have at their disposal.

Injuries have played their part, confining the influential centre-back pairing of Richard Dunne and Ron Vlaar and out of favour forward Darren Bent to the sidelines, but hidden on the bench and further beyond is a wealth of experience that either the manager has taken a dislike to, feel their style isn’t suited, or mismanagement has ensured they’ve played little part.

So, to highlight the point here’s an alternative XI of experienced players who have all received international honours and could add depth to the side, although perhaps not simultaneously.

Shay Given

1 | 36-years-old | 595 competitive appearances | 125 Republic of Ireland caps

A steady pair of hands, whose vast experience could help reassure the youthful, but nervy and also leaky defence in-front of him.

Alan Hutton

2 | 28-years-old | 241 appearances | 28 Scotland caps

A difficult first season at Villa under Alex McLeish was followed by exclusion from Paul Lambert’s 25-man squad and a loan move to Nottingham Forest followed in November.

Stephen Warnock

3 | 31-years-old | 356 appearances | 2 England caps

In the absence of Joe Bennett, Villa have used Eric Lihaj and Enda Stevens at left-back, who have both been tactically exposed by Chelsea, Wigan and even Bradford. The experienced full-back is currently on loan at Bolton Wanderers.

Ron Vlaar

4 | 27-years-old | 159 appearances | 14 Netherlands caps

The 10 appearances he made for Netherlands in 2012 would suggest he’s making good on the promise he showed in his youth and he’s sorely missed in the Villa side at the moment through injury.

Richard Dunne

5 | 33-years-old | 538 appearances | 76 Republic of Ireland caps

There’s just not enough shouting at present in the Villa team and the central defensive fridge is missed for his organisational authority, particularly from set-pieces.

Karim El Ahmadi

6 | 27-years-old | 201 appearances | 18 Morocco caps

An experienced defensive midfielder who spent four seasons with Feyenoord, before moving to the Midlands, where he has yet to establish himself. His position has recently been occupied by Fabian ‘late booking’ Delph (23) and Ashley Westwood (22) and an experienced head is desperately needed to marshal this area.

Jean II Makoun

7 | 29-years-old | 284 appearances | 54 Cameroon caps

Remember him? He played a handful of games under Gerard Houllier and got sent off at Blackpool. Work permit issues meant though that he was shipped off on a season-long loan to Olympiacos last year and is now at Rennes. His contract expires in 2014 and if his work permit problems cannot be resolved before then, his £6.2m fee will have been largely wasted.

Stephen Ireland

8 | 26-years-old | 234 appearances | 6 Republic of Ireland caps

He was an exciting prospect at City and was nominated as their Player of the Season in 2009, but he’s struggled to consistently recreate those halcyon days at Villa. At only 26-years-old the potential remains, but the performances have been sporadic at best.

Charles N’Zogbia

9 | 26-years-old | 290 appearances | 2 France caps

Signed for £9.5m in 2011 from Wigan to great fanfair, he has struggled to recreate his best at Villa Park. An exciting attacking player, he has often been deployed in a deeper role than he’s previously been accustomed to.

Gabriel Agbonlahor

10 | 26-years-old | 284 appearances | 3 England caps

At one time a bright hope in English football, now a cult figure at Villa Park, Agbonlahor still displays some of the ability that shot him to prominence, but is not the goal scoring threat he once was. At only 26-years-old though, he still has time to rediscover the form that helped him towards international recognition.

Darren Bent

11 | 28-years-old | 418 appearances | 13 England caps

Due to Paul Lambert’s direct style of play and preference for on target man and two wingers, Bent has spent a lot of time on the bench this season. He’s a proven goalscorer though that shines when given something to chase in behind the defence, however, a succession of managers have seemingly disagreed and his stock has plummeted.

This XI has an average age of 28.8-years-old, 3,600 competitive appearances and 341 international caps between them and their inclusion in a Villa starting line-up, when and if they do actually become available could be key in helping prevent villa’s young side slowly slide towards the dreaded drop-zone.

Tags: Aston Villa, Paul Lambert, Premier League

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