Aston Villa’s blossoming centre-half partnership are on a joint mission to tighten up the entire backline and fire the club up the Premier League table.
Ron Vlaar and Ciaran Clark may be away on international duty with Holland and the Republic of Ireland respectively but forging a strong domestic understanding is still at the forefront of their minds.
Villa have already shipped 12 goals in the top-flight and kept only one clean sheet so far this season but the duo are working tirelessly to improve the defensive unit.
“It is getting better and better but we still need to improve,” said Vlaar. “We talk about it a lot together and I think everybody has to improve.
“If you believe you can then you can do it every day. It is a long way but we have to keep it up and move forward.
“We have to change our luck and work hard for it. Against Tottenham we didn’t play that badly and we actually had some control in the game but we have to score and try and get clean sheets.
“The partnership with Ciaran is good but I think we have to improve, for the team and for ourselves. I think we can work on that every day and that is what we are doing.
“Communication can always be better and we talk to each other a lot about moments in the game, situations that have happened and what can happen in future.
“We have to look forward to the next game after the international calendar.”
The pair have played every league game together this term and have looked solid despite the goals against statistics suggesting otherwise.
Off the field Vlaar and Clark have forged a good working relationship, too.
They will regularly assess each other’s game and captain Vlaar is always giving his younger team-mate tips and advice to aid his development. Extra sessions in the gym are the norm for the Dutchman who is described as a model professional by his peers.
The 27-year-old is frequently the first in and last out of Bodymoor Heath as he spends added time on improving his game.
Clark is learning off the new skipper all the time and admits it’s great to have another experienced player to listen to among the ranks.
“Ron is helping me a lot, he’s a very professional guy and he always wants to learn himself too,” said Clark “My aim now is to continue building the partnership with him and the more we play together the more confident we will be with each other.”
Richard Dunne, currently sidelined with a groin injury, has been Clark’s long-term mentor and having his fellow countryman back in training is also a big boost.
“Dunney is brilliant,” he added. “He’s been there quite a while and I’ve learned so much from him. I’m hoping I can keep learning from him. I’m sure he will help the young lads and the new guys improve their careers as well.
“He’s an influential player. I’ve been here for four or five years since he’s been here.
“Every day in training I’ve managed to learn little bits off him and he’s spoken to me about the game and given me advice about what I can do to keep on learning.
“I can’t really comment on what’s going to be going on with Dunney in the future but I’m hoping I can learn a lot more from him.
“He does get a bit frustrated (not playing) because he’s one of the guys that wants to be playing week in, week out. He doesn’t like to be sitting on the sidelines.
“He’s a warrior, he will play through whatever he can to be on the pitch. It must be a frustrating time for hin, but hopefully it won’t be too much longer before he is back.
“Then that will add further competition for everyone so that will be brilliant.”