Aston Villa season in review: Nathan Baker

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14: Nathan Baker of Aston Villa during the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Barnsley at Villa Park on February 14, 2017 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14: Nathan Baker of Aston Villa during the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Barnsley at Villa Park on February 14, 2017 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images) /
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Nathan Baker regained his place as a starting Aston Villa center back after three years as a role player. Replacing summer signing Tommy Elphick, Nathan Baker developed a key partnership with fellow defender James Chester.

CB – Nathan Baker, 26

Appearances: 31(1)

WhoScored Aggregate: 6.98

Goals: 1

Nathan Baker began the season as Villa’s third central defender, behind Tommy Elphick and James Chester. An injury to Elphick and the firing of Roberto Di Matteo brought Baker back into the forefront at the club.

Steve Bruce introduced Baker as James Chester’s partner and the pair never looked back. Nathan Baker made thirty-two appearances from forty-six league matches. He missed only a handful of games through injury following Bruce’s hiring.

Baker enjoyed being Villa’s only left-sided central defender in the first-team. The left/right combination of Baker and Chester allowed for more slick passing out the backline. Before, Elphick and Chester struggled on-the-ball under Roberto Di Matteo.

Baker’s struggles are well-documented: he has had problems staying fit over the course of a season. He missed parts of matches on three separate occasions this season. Aston Villa need a good third and fourth option in central defense when Baker is the starting option. Moreover, for someone that is 6’3″, we’d like to see more on set pieces with just a singular goal and zero assists in all competitions

Next: The lowdown on Villa target Kevin Stewart

The positives, however, greatly outweigh the negatives for the Englishman. What Baker does is well is classic, throwback defending. He blocked nearly a shot per game while committing just 0.6 fouls per match.

He accumulated five yellow cards and one red in league play.

2017-2018 Prediction: I don’t see anyone unseating Nathan Baker in the starting line-up next season. The partnership of James Chester and Baker proved its worth in 30+ league matches. Aston Villa is on its way to a top-five Championship defense once more.