After last weekend’s 5-0 thumping at Arsenal, Aston Villa will need the likes of Jores Okore to be at their best if they wish to claim an upset result when league leaders Chelsea visit on Saturday afternoon.
Despite being given a tough time at the Emirates Stadium, the Danish centre-back’s performances have been one of the few bright spots during a lacklustre campaign for Villa, and manager Paul Lambert will be hoping he is back to his best for the Blues clash.
Signed FC Nordsjælland in June 2013 for around £4 million, Chelsea in fact attempted to sign Okore prior to his Villa Park move, but the 10-times capped international spurned their offer over concerns about his first-team chances.
“There is, of course, the temptation – it is a big club, a big opportunity,” he told the Birmingham Mail last week.
“But sometimes you need to take some tough decisions that a lot of people might think are stupid. You need to be smart, think about the long term, not the short.”
Enduring a frustrating debut season at Villa, Okore made just four appearances before rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament, and struggled to get back into the first-team picture over the opening months of this term.
However, with a spate of defensive injuries thrusting him back into the line-up, the promising stopper has since started 11 top-flight games, showing some of the potential which saw the likes of Jose Mourinho chasing his signature.
But do the stats suggest Okore possesses Stamford Bridge credentials?
|Position||Team||Errors Lead To Goal||Total Tackles GAME||Tackle Accuracy||Total Clearances GAME||Headers Won GAME||Header Success||Interceptions GAME||Passing Accuracy||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Jores Okore||DF||Aston Villa||0||1.83||86%||6.42||2.08||54.35||2.83||88%||12||1,019|
Looking at how he compares to Chelsea captain John Terry – the man who he might have envisaged partnering in defence at one point, the 10-times capped international does appear to hold his own in a few areas.
The claret and blue favourite has made more tackles, clearances and interceptions per game than the ex-England man and, while that should all be viewed with the caveat that Villa have been on the back foot more than their weekend opponents this season, it’s notable that his tackle success and passing are both right up there with his counterpart.
Where Okore loses clear ground to Terry, though, is in the air, although that’s not surprising given the fact he stands at 6ft 0in, while the Blues skipper is one of the Premier League’s best in that department.
Nevertheless, at just 22, he still has a huge amount of development ahead of him, and is also blessed with the pace which Terry has had to work without throughout his career.
While he won't have to deal with the suspended Diego Costa at Villa Park, the likes of Loic Remy, Eden Hazard, Oscar and perhaps new signing Juan Cuadrado will be a handful to deal with.
If he can somehow help keep them all out, though, then he will deserve all the plaudits.