Set Apart From The Best

What a difference a Dunne makes. And, come to think of it, a Collins too.

The big centre-backs have brought a new confidence to Villa Park and their attacking of set plays has helped Villa to become the most potent in the Premier League so far this season.

Summer signings Dunne and Collins, who joined from Manchester City and West Ham respectively, both netted from corner kicks on Saturday as Villa saw of title chasing Chelsea.

And their goals meant that the Claret and Blue have now scored nine of their 12 Premier League goals from dead-ball situations.

Dunne, in particular, is reminiscent of now retired Holte Hero Martin Laursen, who used to attack a ball into the box like his life depended on it.

Danish defender Laursen was a skilled predator in the opposition area and he had just as much influence in attacking situtations as he the first third of the pitch.

The former AC Milan defender was often thankful for a good delivery and not much has changed since he netted six league goals in the 2007/08 season.

Villa can still boast the likes of Ashley Young and James Milner in  their squad and the set piece specialists are really making an impact.


Dunne and Collins should get plenty more opportunities like the ones that they were provided with against Carlo Ancelotti's side and if they take half of them then it could be a profitable season for the Villans.

While O'Neill will undoubtedly look to exploit the aerial prowess of his centre-backs he will also be keen to make sure that there is not too much emphasis on set piece scoring.

When Laursen netted his six goals two seasons ago, it was sometimes clear that Villa were not going to score if he didn't get something out of nothing.

The side created little on many occasions and their big Dane bailed them out but it must be different this time around if Villa are to challenge the big boys.

It is great to exploit the weaknesses of the top four, one of which is clearly defending aerial deliveries but O'Neill will be well aware that he needs to find other ways to get the better of them.

You cannot rest on your laurels when it comes to the beautiful game and there must be more to the Claret and Blue game than netting in the air.

A Plan B must be developed and if that coincides with crucial goals from Dunne and Collins via the flag kick route then don't be surprised to see Villa finish in the top four this season.