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Vlaar has high hopes for Sylla

Ron Vlaar believes deadline-day signing Yacouba Sylla could be a key factor in ridding Aston Villa of their soft-centre reputation.

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Villa have conceded exactly 50 Premier League goals as well as being pilloried for the ease with which Bradford City scored against them in both legs of the Capital One Cup semi-final.

But Sylla, despite being seen by supporters as an underwhelming addition when he arrived for £1.75 million from French second division side Clermont at the end of last month, has been party to the club's recent improvement.

He has been eased in by Paul Lambert as a substitute during the 3-3 draw at Everton and the 2-1 home win over West Ham and Vlaar welcomes the addition of a player with some presence in midfield.

"I hadn't seen a great deal of Yacouba but the boss clearly rates him very highly," the Netherlands international said. "You could see from his brief substitute appearances that he's a very strong player who will attack the ball and make some important challenges in midfield."

Villa have been particularly profligate since mid-December, when they suffered big defeats in quick succession against Chelsea, Tottenham and Wigan.

The flow of goals against has continued to be substantial, if not at the same alarming rate, but the club's elimination from the FA Cup gives them a free fortnight to work on the training ground before the league trip to Arsenal a week on Saturday.

Many are looking to Vlaar, who is Villa's most senior defender following his £3 million arrival from Feyenoord last summer, to provide leadership over the remaining three months of the season and he recognises that the side have to become harder to beat.

"We're aware that we have been conceding too many goals," he added. "We have 12 more games to play and we all realise what we have to do to start moving up the table."


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