By George Overhill

12th Jul, 2023 | 5:40pm

Aston Villa hope Ashley Young doesn't prove costly error after Everton news

Aston Villa decided to let 38-year-old Ashley Young walk at the end of the season despite his unexpectedly key role under both Steven Gerrard and Unai Emery.

The veteran full-back made 29 Premier League appearances as cover for injuries to Matty Cash and Lucas Digne, and proved a valuable presence despite playing past the age where most outfielders have retired.

With Fabrizio Romano reporting on Wednesday (12 July) that he is set to be confirmed at Everton after the relevant documentation was signed, Villa will hope that he doesn’t show them what they are missing next term.

Unai Emery has grand ambitions for this side and his record so far has proven his decision-making sound, while the January signing of Alex Moreno was a definite boost to the full-back positions, so a player pushing 40 was clearly not in his plans.

But Young proved to be more than a just emergency cover as he was an important part of the team in the early days of the revival under the Spaniard from October onwards, and was still starting games in May as Aston Villa qualified for Europe.

Defensively his statistics match up against all three of Moreno, Cash and Digne last season, as he led the three current Villa men in average clearances, times dribbled past and blocks according to WhoScored comparison stats.

With 2.1 clearances a game he led Moreno by 0.5, while he was level with Cash and slightly better than Digne with 0.4 times dribbled past per 90, with Moreno a long way back on 1.2.

With 0.4 blocks he was better than all three ex-teammates on 0.2, while second best to Cash in tackles per game on 1.7 to the Polish international’s 2.1, and interceptions on 0.7 to Cash’s 1.

Offensively Moreno was the obvious stand-out, with three assists from the lowest number of minutes of all four men, while the 30-year-old led in shots per game (0.7), key passes (1.2) and dribbles (1.2).

But again, Young was no slouch statistically going forward, as WhoScored stats show his shots per game were second best of the quartet (0.5), his key passes (0.5) were third best ahead of Cash, and his dribbles were third best ahead of Digne on 0.3.

He drew the most fouls of all four with 1 per game, and was disposed on average the fewest amount of times on 0.2, compared to Moreno at worst on 0.8.

So, at least eight years the senior of the top three full-backs left at Villa Park he was defensively strong and offensively pretty good, meaning he held his own as a starting option and was a more than capable stand-in for injuries.

There is little chance that Villa completely fall off a cliff without him, but if fitness or form issues strike again for Digne, Cash or Moreno, and if Young is playing a valuable role for Sean Dyche at Goodison Park, Emery might feel like he should have ensured he got at least another year out of him for what surely would not have been a prohibitive cost.

In other Aston Villa news, multiple clubs have been in contact to sign a first-team ace who is ready to leave.