AV, the initials of Aston Villa, could just as easily stand for ‘adaptable’ and ‘versatile’ given the ability of many of Martin O’Neill’s squad to play in several positions.
Luke Young, Nigel Reo-Coker, Carlos Cuellar and Gareth Barry are among the Villa players asked to give up their regular roles on occasion for the good of the team.
While midfielder Barry, and more regularly Reo-Coker, have provided cover at full-back at times, centre-back Cuellar has also been switched to a wide defensive role.
Young, who was signed as a right-back but now deputises on the opposite flank, is happy to subscribe to the Villa manager’s ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ philosophy.
“You have to be a team player and do a job for the team,” Young said.
“In my younger days at Tottenham, I occasionally played as one of three central defenders or sometimes as a wing-back.
“Until this season it had been a long time since I’d played left-back but I’m at a club with big ambitions, so all that matters to me is being in the starting XI.
“If it’s at left-back, so be it. I’m just pleased to be playing.
“I feel my performances would be better at right-back because I feel I can offer more in that position. But if the manager wants me on the left I have no problem.”
Villa’s attacking players have also demonstrated their adaptability, with Gabriel Agbonhalor embracing an unfamiliar lone frontman role in the injury-enforced absence of John Carew.
Widemen Ashley Young and James Milner, too, have shown their ability to swap wings to keep the opposition on their toes while both players willingly help out defensively.
Villa’s versatility has not been lost on former striker
Stan Collymore who believes Milner, in particular, has aspects of his game suited to a variety of positions.
Collymore has been impressed with the former Newcastle winger’s impact in recent weeks and believes he has the workrate and nous to also play central midfield.
“I reckon James is set for a long and successful career with Villa,” Collymore said.
“Even though he’s only 23 he has a great deal of experience from his days with Leeds and Newcastle and he has added both pace and width to Villa’s game.
“Although he won’t always have his speed, that shouldn’t prevent him from being successful in a different position as he gets older.
“He’s a lad who works hard and has a fair bit of guile, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him operating in a central midfield role a bit further down the line.”
Meanwhile, the latest statistics have revealed that Brad Friedel is the Premier League’s second most-consistent keeper behind Liverpool’s Pepe Reina.
The Actim Index, the top-flight’s official player rating system, also has Ashley Young second in the midfielder list, with Agbonlahor the second best striker.
n?Villa and West Ham United reserves were unable to manage a goal in their Premiership Reserve League clash last night. The Hammers goalkeeper Marek Stech was the star of the show with a string of good saves.