It’s taken eight months, but I’ve finally soured on Curtis Davies. In that, I suppose I’m no different than the manager. Had both of us—particularly him—lost faith in him four months sooner, Aston Villa might have bolstered their defense in January and avoided the swoon they now find themselves in. Hindsight is wonderful, isn’t it?
When Davies was patrolling the backline at West Bromwich Albion, I used to wonder why big clubs didn’t seem serious about signing him. And when Martin O’Neill finally came calling, I felt it was eight million quid well spent. I was wrong.
This isn’t to say that Davies isn’t a decent defender. He’s serviceable, I suppose. And at 24-years-of-age, there’s plenty of time for him to realize his potential. It could be worse, after all. He could be Titus Bramble, or even Zat Knight.
Ah yes, Zat Knight. He of the two England caps that not even Davies can boast. Has there ever been a worse defender in the national side?
At 6-foot-6, I can see why he’s been given countless chances to prove his worth. Only he hasn’t got any. He’s barely useful in the air, and he gets turned more often than pages in a phone book.
O’Neill spent almost 12 million pounds on Davies and Knight. Enough, you might say, for Carlos Puyol’s right leg. Give me the right leg.
Villa’s impressive run of matches from November to January was played—in large part—with a 4-5-1 formation. The extra presence in front of the back four shielded a much over-rated—and perhaps mediocre—defensive corps. It’s no coincidence that the sudden shift to a 4-4-2 setup has resulted in a deluge of goals against.
It’s also no coincidence that Martin Laursen’s season-ending injury spelt the end of Villa’s Champions’ League ambitions. Already forced to operate with two strikers to justify the signing of Emile Heskey, O’Neill was forced to draft in one of Davies and Knight alongside Carlos Cuellar.
Neither was up to it. And without the previously effective tandem of Steve Sidwell and Stilyan Petrov protecting them, their shortcomings were quickly brought to light.