By Anthony Onifade

27th Oct, 2023 | 3:10pm

Lucas Digne drops unexpected clanger in Aston Villa 4-1 win v AZ Alkmaar as worrying Emiliano Martinez detail emerges

Lucas Digne had what was arguably his worst attacking performance for a long while in an Aston Villa shirt on Thursday (26 October) as they thumped AZ Alkmaar 4-1.

AZ were semi-finalists in this competition last season and have been riding high in the Dutch Eredivisie so far this season but were blown away by Unai Emery’s clinical side, who took a 2-0 half-time lead thanks to goals from Leon Bailey and Youri Tielemans.

Ollie Watkins’ ninth goal of the season and John McGinn’s close-range strike added gloss to the scoreline after half-time, though AZ pulled one back through Ibrahim Sadiq’s stunning effort from range.

Overall, Villa scored four goals from five shots to make it 16 goals in their last five matches, all of which have seen Emery’s side go unbeaten.

In fact, the Villans have been lethal in front of goal recently. Since 30 September, the Villans have notched a whopping 16 goals in all competitions [SofaScore], and they are currently the second-highest scorers in the Premier League with 23 goals, only behind Newcastle (24).

Emery must certainly be given tremendous credit for his team’s clinical edge and ruthlessness in front of goal but is also quelling those theories that he is a reactive tactician.

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Before Emery’s first game in charge, Aston Villa were 16th in the Premier League – one point off the relegation zone. But he steered them to European qualification last season and now they are back within a point of the Champions League places after Sunday’s win against West Ham United.

One key tactical facet in his team is the bombardment of crosses from his attacking full-backs, Matty Cash and Lucas Digne. However, the latter has remarkably improved since last season.

Digne had proven pretty shy in the attacking regard last season, as the stats showed, he was averaging just 0.1 dribbles per game at a dreadful rate of 21% [SofaScore], also underperforming his 1.92 expected assists and creating just two big chances throughout the 2022/23 campaign.

However, the Frenchman has been totally revitalised so far this campaign recording an impressive one goal and five assists and his 89th percentile ranking of crosses into the penalty area and 85th key pass percentile ranking among full-backs in Europe’s top five leagues over the past year [FBRef] certainly indicate a player who is improving vastly.

Digne is considerably usurping those torrid numbers from last season already, averaging around 3 key passes per game, but also excelling in his defensive numbers, averaging 1.6 interceptions, 1.5 tackles, 4.3 balls recovered and winning 60% of his total duels [SofaScore].

Against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday (26 October), the Villans carried on their tremendous streak in front of goal but Digne dropped a rare attacking clanger despite the win.

As per SofaScore, the Frenchman’s success rate with crosses and long balls was at a worrying 0% – something he regularly excels in from that left flank. Also, he had fewer touches than goalkeeper Emilian Martinez (75 to 55), failed to register a single key pass and failed with 0% of his dribbles too.

Digne’s passing radar was also off at the AFAS Stadium as he completed just 22 of the 30 he attempted (73%).

The Frenchman is likely to record better numbers when the Villans take on Luton Town on Sunday (29 October) but if it continues, it won’t be a surprise to see Emery rush Alex Moreno back into contention.

In other Aston Villa news, one Villa Park dud flops with a 4/10 display, and one Man-of-the-Match player shines with a 9/10 performance as player ratings revealed v AZ Alkmaar.