What’s changed since we did this piece below in March:
• The Resurgence of Stan Petrov at Aston Villa
The skinny: After coming back from injury, the captain increasingly found the pitch for Villa as they navigated away from relegation waters. Petrov’s calmness on the ball and “been through it before” resume certainly contributed to his name being on the first eleven team sheet more often than not through the first half of 2011.
Whereas it though Petrov might be encouraged to move on from Villa at year’s end, it now looks like a sure bet that he will finish out his contract, training his days at The Barn.
• Today, Nigel Reo Coker and Robert Pires were released by Villa.
The skinny: Pires was done-for well before today at Villa. He rarely contributed through the 2nd half of the campaign.
As for Reo-Coker, it appears that the demand for his services is paramount to what Villa was willing to ante up to procure his services. Very interesting indeed and it moves up Michael Bradley now to 3rd or 4th in the pecking order, depending on how one evaluates it.
The depth chart in the central midfield may look like this: 1) Jean Makoun 2) Stan Petrov 3) Fabian Delph (for more on Delph see below) 4) Michael Bradley
Delph, a star in the making for England, will certainly be given more chances in 2011.
• Ashely Young and Stuart Downing are both “plotting their escapes” from Villa.
The skinny: Ashley Young is rumored to sign for Manchester United (oh my) on Monday. While Stuart Downing this past week did an abrupt you turn and said that he would play out his current contract with the club.
Downing’s future is more of a mystery, while Reo Coker sees assured of moving to a stronger side, be it in the EPL or elsewhere.
The impact here? How will Villa uses the funds secured from moving Ashley Young. With Mark Albrighton in reserve, they may not opt for another winger and it’s well known that Houllier loves his central midfielders.
• Borussia Moenchengladbach escape relegation on Wednesday with a win over Bochum.
The skinny: Bradley of course went on loan from “Bo Munchen” in January to Villa. Many different reasons why the transfer ensued–American media reports say he put in for a transfer while German reports are mixed.
Either way Gladbach can stomach the return of Bradley from a roster cost perspective in 2011-2012, though (thanks to @amfid on Twitter for the next part where I originally erred), Gladbach Sports Director Max Eberl said in an interview that there is no way back for Bradley.
Additionally, Havard Nordtveit (20) and Roman Neustädter (23) doing well in the dual holding roles and Gladback reportedly seeking a new player for this position in young Matthias Zimmermann (2009 U-17 euro champion with Germany) a talent from 2nd Bundesliga team KSC set to join Gladbach in the center.
From fans that have cascaded through TSG, the sentiment seems to be that they want Bradley to transfer and get a decent price for him.
Going into June:
Going into June, Michael Bradley will be a key figure for the US in their pursuit of Gold Cup victory. Incredulously, Bradley has played nearly as many international minutes thus far in 2011 as he has club minutes.
A strong showing in the Gold Cup would help Bradley, but most of the audience for the tourney is here in the States, not abroad.
Best bet for 23-year-old Bradley? Back to the Bundesliga or slotting in with a mid-to-bottom table side EPL side if Villa declines to make the move for him, perhaps a Wigan. Roberto Martinez obviously did the American World Cup coverage for ESPN and saw quite a bit of the Bob Bradley’s son.
Wild card? Let me toss out Everton, long with a storied connection to Americans as well as rumors of Jack Rodwell moving on. Bradley would be a fine complement there to the possession, less-defensive oriented hubs of Fellaini and Arteta.
Our bet right now? Villa makes a short term (2 years?) play for his services. With Reo-Coker out and Bradley already familiar with the system, Bradley would seem like a good bet in the midfield committee for the Villians. Villa has until May 31st to decide if they want to accept Gladbach’s transfer terms.
That said, it sure looks like Gerard Houllier is jettisoning Americans at the club with Brad Friedel rumored out to Liverpool and other realms, with Brad Guzan likely moving to a Championship side and with Eric Lichaj saying he wants to stay at Leeds.
Below from March 6th…
Much has been made in the American media about the growth, and recent plight, of US international Michael Bradley.
A polarizing figure to say the least.
A wavy, but abundantly positive-trending, career has seen Bradley selected into MLS…by his father (present USMNT coach Bob Bradley, then NY-NJ MetroStars manager) as a precocious and brooding 16-year-old. Bradley soon after took to Europe and ended up scoring more goals in a season overseas than any American, 16 league goals for Eredivisie side SC Heerenveen in 2007-08 (of course, this record is currently threatened by Giuseppi Rossi in La Liga who notched his 15th for Villarreal in their stunning 3-1 loss to Atletico Madrid this past Saturday.)
Upon his Dutch success, a big move to Bundesliga side Borussia Moechengladbach (Bo’Munchen) was in the offing and Bradley became a fixture in their line-up during his time there (despite some clashes with the coaches).
Bradley’s fixture status even extends to the USMNT national team where he played all possible minutes for the US in South Africa. This after being one of three players through the 2010 World Cup qualifying to play 1300 minutes or more for the States (the others were Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra). Bradley and company played 12% more time than anyone else including stalwarts Oguchi Onyewu (injured in the final game of qualifying) and Tim Howard.
The case in point?
Michael Bradley is resilient, oft-not-injuried, critical component of any team he plays on and his pedigree shows an upward moving level to his play.
That notion makes Bradley’s next few months at his club Aston Villa all the more compelling.
Having been transferred to Gerard Houllier’s Aston Villa side in the January window–until this past Wednesday in the FA Cup–Bradley had not played more than 45 minutes or started for club or country in 2011, astounding for a player who seems more and more effective the faster and faster his pitch odometer revolves.
American media loves to use and re-use the statement that wherever he has went, Bradley has eventually earned starter’s minutes and made an impact.
However, while it appears Bradley will stick at Villa Park–his current playing time hiccup more a matter of game fitness than ability in this writer’s opinion–the battle for consistent and exclusive starter’s minutes may be less about how he plays and more about the dynamics outside of his control, specifically player contracts and manager tinkering.
The crowded Villa centerfield has no less than eight players that could theoretically play for the 1st team or have played for it.
Let’s take a look at each of these players, dissect their situation and round out with Junior Bradley’s playtime prognostication:
First, let’s dismiss two of these players outright:
Stephen Ireland: The highly talented Irishman arrived at Villa Park with a bunch of quid in a swap for James “I wish I never met Steve Cherundolo” Milner under the reign of previous manager Martin O’Neill. Once Houllier arrived, Ireland appeared to fall out of favor and both sides mutually agreed to part ways for the rest of the season as Ireland join the Tynesiders on loan through the end of the campaign. Said Houllier at the time, “Once a player wants to go, he goes.”
Ireland is out of contract this year and his chance of re-upping at Villa I would put at no higher than 0%.
Isiaih Osbourne: England youth international Isiaih Osbourne appears to be moving on as well as Summer 2011 dawns. The 23-year-old is currently on-loan at Sheffield Wednesday–where they’ve been pleased with his play–but the same can’t be said for the Mothership.
Osbourne–who was arrested, but not charged for suspicion to rob in 2009 further muddling his shot at Villa– has been loaned out four times by the senior side.
Despite being 6’2”, 23-years-old and clearly having some talent, Osbourne appears destined to move on in the Summer when his contract expires as well.
That leaves six, for now. Let’s handicap the rest, starting with may appear the lesser of the threats: