James Collins and Richard Dunne have been something of a surprise package this year and have been the backbone upon which another succesful season has been built for the Villains under Martin O'Neill. Considering that James Collins has never really been recognized as an outstanding performer and Richard Dunne, for all his heroics, has certainly seen his high profile blunders bring him his fair few critics, it didn't look like a partnership that would blossom too quickly, let alone hold the best defensive record in the league for the best part of a season. Moving from a bottom half of the table club, to one that is challenging for the Champions League is quite a step up, but he has made a good start to his Villa career and it seems he has been given a fresh start and a new lease of life. Now, let's look (briefly) at the key areas in his game that have made him such a respected Premier League defender.
Collins has improved greatly over the season as his partnership with Richard Dunne has blossomed at the back for Villa. As neither have great pace, it was vital that he improved his positioning from his time at West Ham. Considering his poor form at the Hammers the season before, it'd be unfair for him to sit alongside the likes Gary Cahill and Martin Škrtel for example, who have proven their ability over a longer period of time, however he has shown that he is more than capable. There are however still momentary lapses but luckily, another area which has seen vast improvement is his response.
I initially overrated the stat however I believe it was an easy mistake to make as his transformation has been quite impressive. He has, over the course of the year, become a far more reliable player as his anticipation and reaction to loose balls has come on in such a way. It is definitly the area which I see he has made the most improvement. He is showing an intelligence that has been lacking in the past and he's reaped the benefits.
Overall, he is an extremely strong player who is dominant in the air and works extremely hard for the cause. Technically he is surprisingly good, he has decent distribution and is composed on the ball.