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Aston Villa: Douglas Luiz was the real hero v Leeds

Aston Villa secured a dogged and important win in their efforts to return to prominence in the Premier League on Friday night, defeating a gallant Leeds United team 2-1 at Villa Park.

Having taken the early lead through Leon Bailey’s strike, Villa were galvanised into holding onto their advantage, displaying a level of resilience and tenacity which will delight head coach Unai Emery.

The 51-year-old now clinched victory in four of his six Premier League matches in charge since assuming the managerial role at the club in October, a run which began by emphatically dispatching Manchester United 3-1. 

Emiliano Buendia nodded in from close range after the interval to give the home side a two-goal cushion, before the Whites’ Patrick Bamford halved the deficit in the closing stages. Despite the waves of Leeds’ forward surges, the Villans managed to hold on for victory and now sit 11th after 19 league matches, with 25 points on the board.

The continuation of the steadily blossoming winning mentality is indeed the most important facet of this match, but several exemplary showings will indeed leave Emery with new-found optimism over the push for European football which could be forged over the coming months.

Buendia and Bailey were amongst the goals, while summer signing Boubacar Kamara – who arrived on a free transfer last summer – produced a “sublime” performance (as remarked by one football writer) to continue the club’s purple patch.

However, it was established industrious ace Douglas Luiz who should take home many of the plaudits after a stunning display.

Having warded off interest from Arsenal in the summer for the Brazilian ace, Villa’s technical director Johan Lange is reaping the benefits of Luiz’s presence in the team, with his average Sofascore rating of 7.00 the highest of any player in the entire squad so far in 2022/23.

Against Leeds, his all-encompassing intensity and unwavering grit anchored the ship and provided an offensive outlet from deep within the core of the team, offering an added dimension from which to flourish.

His 7.7 Sofascore match rating on the night was better than anyone else who featured and was testament to his influence across every department.

Is Douglas Luiz Aston Villa's best midfielder?

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Yes

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Recording 71 touches, Luiz was in the thick of the action, completing 72% of his passes, making two key passes, creating one big chance and unleashing two shots in his efforts to enhance Villa’s prospects of victory.

From a defensive standpoint, the 24-year-old remarkably won nine of his 17 duels, along with making five tackles, four interceptions and two clearances – a churning engine and a key component somewhat going under the radar as his goalscoring team-mates stole the headlines.

Statman Dave lauded Luiz’s “excellent” outing, while Brazilian reporter Fernando Campos hailed “another great performance” from the ace who “dictates rhythm”.

With the Villa hierarchy looking to match the ambitions of four-time Europa League winner Emery, it is vital that Luiz remains the centrepiece to the team’s forthcoming exploits.