Aston Villa’s defence has pretty much picked itself over the last 18 months after some solid results and excellent performances under Dean Smith and now Steven Gerrard.
Emiliano Martinez is the undisputed number one goalkeeper, while Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings and Matt Targett make up the back-four in front of him when they’re all fit. The likes of Kortney Hause and Axel Tuanzebe make the central defensive positions somewhat competitive, but the full-backs have been pretty much set in stone.
So when Targett suffered a head injury against Manchester City and was forced off, there were instantly worries from Villa fans as to who would fill in and how much of a blow it would turn out to be in the upcoming games.
If the win and performance against Leicester is anything to go by though, they needn’t have worried because Ashley Young is on the scene.
The former Manchester United man made his name as a winger, lighting up the Premier League for Villa before his move to Old Trafford where he won the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League. But during his time up north, Young’s game transformed from a flying winger to a reliable full-back. That was solidified when he moved to Italy with Inter Milan and won the Scudetto playing as a left wing-back.
Upon his return to Villa Park in the summer on a free transfer, where he signed a £50k-per-week deal, many lauded his versatility as a big reason why the deal was a good one for the club despite him being 36-years-old these days. His performance against Leicester in the 2-1 win from left-back proved them right.
He won 100% of his tackles on the day and only Emi Buendia completed more dribbles than him in a Villa shirt during the game. Despite being naturally right-footed, he kept the width well to stretch the Leicester defence and was a threat going forward with his crossing ability. His performance meant Villa barely missed Targett in the game and were able to pick up three points without him.
With a trip to Anfield up next, Gerrard will want his strongest defence available to him. But with Young’s experience and winning mentality, that could well include the veteran who the Villans boss dubbed “outstanding” in a wing-back role to provide a threat going forward as well as security defensively against the most potent attack in the country.
As he proved only last weekend, he can be game-changing in that position.
AND in other news, Matty Cash stole the show against Leicester.