Aston Villa were tipped to struggle by many this season, with a relegation battle the most popular prediction when it came to Paul Lambert's side. However, their season so far has exceeded expectations, with three wins and one draw from their opening four games - including victories away at Stoke and Liverpool.
The shock 1-0 win over the Reds last weekend was a real surprise, with Villa scoring an early goal through Gabriel Agbonlahor before producing an exceptional defensive display to keep a Daniel Sturridge-less Liverpool at bay. That was made all the more impressive by the absence of Dutch centre back Ron Vlaar, who has been the lynchpin of the Villa backline over the past 12 months and is at the top of his game after starring for the Netherlands at this summer's World Cup in Brazil.
Despite Vlaar missing out, Villa did have another defender in top form - Philippe Senderos.
The former Arsenal defender left relegated Fulham at the end of his contract this summer, and was widely regarded as a another poor signing for Villa when they really needed another dominant centre back alongside Vlaar. Well, that's actually what they've ended up getting out of Switzerland international, with the 29-year-old enjoying a phenomenal start to the season.
With a meeting against his former employers Arsenal coming up this weekend, Senderos will need to be on top form to keep the likes of Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez at bay, so here is how Senderos stacks up against the current Gunners centre backs so far this season.
|Team||Pos||Blocked Cross||Total Blocks||Total Clearances||Headed Clearances||Apps||Mins|
|Philippe Senderos||Aston Villa||DF||2||5||24||12||4||360|
From these stats, you see how important Senderos has been to Villa. The former Gunners scapegoat has blocked more cross than Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, made more blocks all over the pitch, produced more clearances and been more dominant in the air too as he makes a stunning start to life at Villa Park - against all the odds.
This isn't to say that Senderos is a better player than Koscielny and Mertesacker, but it's interesting to see Senderos in the form of his life at a time when Arsenal are so depleted in defence after a number of injuries. A player that most Arsenal fans were happy to see the back of has been a key part of a defence that has allowed just one goal this season - and he will be looking to keep his former boss Arsene Wenger scoreless this weekend too.