Micah Richards proving a big upgrade over Ron Vlaar for Aston Villa

Micah Richards v Ron Vlaar: Head to Head: : 20150915

Villa's new team skipper is so far proving a more than capable replacement for the departed Dutchman in the heart of the defence.

Micah Richards v Ron Vlaar: Head to Head: : 20150915

After spending most of his career at right-back, Micah Richards has had no problems making the move to centre-half since arriving at Aston Villa on a free transfer in the summer.

Already appointed team captain, the ex-Manchester City man has been arguably Villa’s most consistent player through the first five Premier League games of the season and, as the statistics show, an obvious upgrade over the man he was signed to replace, former skipper Ron Vlaar.

The departed Dutchman missed large chunks of his third and final season in the Midlands with calf and knee injuries but, when he did manage to make it off the treatment table and onto the pitch, the numbers he put up per top-flight game paled in comparison to those of his successor.

So far, Richards is beating Vlaar across all the main individual defensive stats, while he has also offered more going forward, having created three scoring chances and attempted eight dribbles in his five outings – more than his fellow defender managed in both categories across 15 more games [two chances created, four total dribbles].

 Premier League TeamSeasonTotal Tackles MINSTackle AccuracyTotal Clearances MINSHeaders Won MINSHeader SuccessInterceptions MINSPassing AccuracyBall Recoveries MINSAppearancesMins Played
Micah Richards Aston Villa 2015-2016 45 70% 12.5 26.47 73.91% 26.47 84% 14.52 5 450
Ron Vlaar Aston Villa 2014-2015 96.82 65% 14.31 68.58 52.17% 40.15 82% 28.38 20 1,646

Villa have conceded more goals per game this season than when Vlaar was in the line-up last term [1.6 compared to 1.35] but, even in Sunday's agonising 3-2 defeat at Leicester City, Richards was still largely faultless during the chaotic final 18 minutes which saw Tim Sherwood's men let a two-goal lead slip.

With their ex-skipper currently out until November too, having undergone yet another knee operation in July, it certainly looks like the club dodged a bullet when the Netherlands international turned down a new contract in the summer because he believed he could go "a step higher".

Ultimately, as the youngest-ever defender to win an England cap, Richards' ability has never truly been questioned and, while he did suffer from a lack of game time in recent campaigns, he now looks to be finding his feet again with regular action at Villa Park.

Despite only turning 27 in June, he already has an abundance of experience after playing his 250th game in English football on the weekend and he should continue to prove a valuable leader on Villa's backline going forward.

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