This article is part of Football FanCast’s Loan Watch series, which takes a closer look at those players who are aiming to galvanise their careers away from the spotlight of their parent club.
Aston Villa currently have a number of first-team players out on loan but Dean Smith is likely to be keeping tabs on the progress of young right-back James Bree who is playing a regular role in Luton’s Championship campaign.
With former Hatters full-back James Justin departing for Leicester City in the summer transfer window, an opportunity has emerged in the starting XI, and Bree has gone on to make 11 starts out of a possible 16 in the second tier.
So far this season, Bree has won an average of 1.3 tackles whilst also registering 1.9 clearances per game. That may sound quite low but in the context of Luton’s squad, only five players have produced higher averages on each front, and it must be remembered that this is a side just a point above the relegation zone having lost five of their last six games.
Within that context, and considering he’s been used on his less-favoured left-hand side five times, Bree is arguably holding his own for a 21-year-old still learning the ropes. However, he was criticised by Luton Today for his role in the first Nottingham Forest goal in a 2-1 defeat prior to the international break and then found himself dropped to the bench for a subsequent 3-0 loss against Reading.
Certainly there is work for Bree to do then and perhaps more influence offensively could be the answer, especially considering Luton’s promotion campaign last season was built on the accumulation of a very impressive 90 League One goals. The Villa loanee has averaged just 0.6 dribbles and 0.4 key passes per game during his time at Kenilworth Road.
And that could be a factor in earning himself a place in the first-team back with Villa as well. Frederic Guilbert and Ahmed Elmohamady are both offensive-minded right-backs, the latter even featuring in midfield for Villa previously, and Smith appears to prefer that profile of modern wide defender.
Of course, variation is key to any successful squad but with Elmohamady’s contract due to enter its final twelve months in the summer, meaning Villa may well be tempted to cash in, Bree still has some way to go to prove he can be a direct replacement.