By Anthony Onifade

2nd Sep, 2023 | 5:30pm

Lucas Digne enjoys remarkable upturn in Aston Villa form in recent matches, he will be crucial v Liverpool

Aston Villa star Lucas Digne looked a goner at Villa Park a few weeks ago but in the blink of an eye, the Frenchman has gone from an unfortunate exit casualty to a crucial performer for Unai Emery.

Spanish journalist Matteo Moretto, taking to his personal Twitter account reported on Monday 14 August, that the Villans showed an interest in Sevilla left-back Marcos Acuna as Emery desperately looked to bolster his ranks at left-back.

Such interest came as result of Digne attracting attention from his native country and in Saudi Arabia with OGC Nice (RMC Sport, 22 August) and Al-Hilal (Daily Mail, 3 August) respectively making their intentions known to sign him.

In fact, there were plans for Emery to utilise new defensive signing Pau Torres at left-back had Digne departed Villa Park and that decision will have been justified after underwhelming performances since his move from Everton in January 2022.

Since arriving at Villa Park, Emery has often tasked his left-back with venturing into the final third on a regular basis, offering plenty of width and attacking vigour, while his right-back, often the departed Ashley Young, was made to sit back and tuck into a narrow defensive position.

Digne has proven pretty shy in that sense, as the stats show, averaging just 0.1 dribbles per game at a dreadful rate of 21% [SofaScore], underperforming his 1.92 expected assists and creating just two big chances throughout the 2022/23 campaign.

Those are worrying numbers for such an experienced international player, and such stats meant Digne may not have the required quality to trump the injured Alex Moreno in the long term, who impressed since his 2023 winter move from Real Betis.

But for an unfortunate injury to key star and club captain Tyrone Mings, the Frenchman’s trajectory in the West Midlands has taken a dramatic and remarkable U-turn.

No longer is he considered the positional stopgap in the Aston Villa team but now a much more crucial and decisive component especially in the attacking sense after recent performances.

In Digne’s last five games in all competitions to open the campaign for the Villans, the Frenchman has impressively registered one goal and four assists [SofaScore], including three in the 5-0 trouncing of Scottish side Hibernian in the Europa Conference League qualifying first-leg tie (24 August).

Such form led Emery to seal his Villa Park fate when he admitted that Digne won’t be leaving the club in the summer window after plenty of interest.

Speaking to Birmingham World on 31 August, the Spaniard said: “I’m very, very happy with him. I think he’s very important for the squad and I can tell you he’s going to be with us.”

In fact, Digne is considerably usurping those torrid numbers from last season in just five games already, averaging around 3 key passes per game, but also excelling in his defensive numbers, averaging 1.3 interceptions, 1.3 tackles, 4.3 balls recovered and winning 60% of his total duels [SofaScore].

The Frenchman has always had a reputation for his sublime crosses from the left-flank but that took a huge hit during the opening year of his Villa career, now that reputation has returned in flying colours now accurately completing almost 20% of his crosses at a rate of 1.3 per game [SofaScore].

With the Villans facing another critical Premier League test against Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, Digne’s tremendous upturn in form and attacking influence down the left-flank could prove critical with the Reds largely proving vulnerable down Trent Alexander-Arnold’s side as a result of his new midfield role and Liverpool’s frailties in defence at the start of the campaign.

Aston Villa have certainly found a new-found confidence in attack so far this season, scoring 16 goals in their opening five games in all competitions and much of the applause must be given to rejuvenated and revitalised Digne who is now enjoying a remarkable new lease on life in the West Midlands. Long may it continue.