When Neil Taylor was brought into Villa in January 2017 in a swap deal for Jordan Ayew, it seemed a strange piece of business to many fans, with Ayew being one of our more threatening attackers. But as the season went on, Taylor performed well and justified Bruce’s decision to bring him in, so why has the 2017/18 campaign been such a struggle for Neil Taylor after having such an encouraging first half of 2017?
An easy excuse for Taylor is his injuries, with the Welshman being side-lined by multiple injuries throughout the season, but while that might explain why he only made 29 Championship appearances of the 49 available last season, it doesn’t explain why when he did play, he looked a weak link. Another possible explanation of his lack of appearances would have to be the increased importance of Alan Hutton in the Villa side, with it becoming more and more difficult to dislodge the Scot from the starting 11. When he has both available, Bruce has favoured Hutton over Taylor this season and you can’t argue with that decision in the slightest. While Neil Taylor is naturally left-footed and should typically offer more balance, he simply hasn’t taken his chances when he has played and hasn’t shown enough to give Bruce a headache. Receiving an unnecessary red card in the 94th minute against Bolton just sums up the season that Taylor had, and that certainly did him no favours when it came to retaining a place in the starting line-up.
A Disappointing Season for Neil Taylor
Despite all these factors however, the main reason that Neil Taylor has struggled so much at Villa (particularly this season) is the style of play that the club have adopted this term. While in the forgettable 2016/17 season Villa’s style was largely defensive and played to Neil Taylor’s strength, the 2017/18 season saw a much more attacking Aston Villa side, and this definitely didn’t suit Taylor. But the fact that Bruce didn’t need to think about Taylor’s strengths when choosing Villa’s play-style does reflect his minimal importance on the side. In Bruce’s first season, Taylor didn’t look too weak as the defensive style of play suited him perfectly, never leaving him too exposed and not relying on him to add to the attacks. But with promotion the aim this season, Villa’s full backs were much more involved in the attacks, and as Neil Taylor doesn’t offer any great pace or strength, and doesn’t have a fantastic delivery on him, he was never that useful in the final third. While Elmohamady got 5 assists last season, Taylor recorded 0 and this displays the lack of attacking quality that he possesses and just goes to show why he couldn’t keep the shirt for a prolonged period of time.
Despite his wealth of experience, Neil Taylor has seemed to struggle since his move to Villa Park from Swansea in 2017 and can’t nail down his place in the starting 11. From injuries to a style of play that almost ignores him, there are different factors that could explain Taylor’s struggle, but it simply hasn’t worked out the way he would’ve liked in the past 18 months and the Welshman will be hoping to make a real impact on the team next season to avoid being shipped out for profit, if that doesn’t happen this summer.