Matty Cash may be replaced in January transfer window - Three things learned from 4-1 win v AZ Alkmaar
Aston Villa delivered a Europa Conference League away-day masterclass as they thumped high-flying Dutch club AZ Alkmaar 4-1 at the AFAS stadium on Thursday (26 October).
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.
Here are three things we at Villa News learned from the rampant win at the AFAS Stadium…
Matty Cash upgrade may be pursued in January
Cash has proven a crucial commodity in the Aston Villa side in recent seasons after some mature, assured and dominant performances at right-back since his move from Nottingham Forest in 2020.
The latter stages of the 2022/23 campaign had been something of an unfortunate struggle for the Polish international, suffering from injuries and a lack of form but returned this season in top fitness.
However, the former Nottingham Forest man has been like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde so far this campaign, brilliant on several occasions and woeful on others.
The Villans simply do not have another specialist right back alongside Cash like they do on the opposite flank with Lucas Digne and Alex Moreno and if the club are to push into Champions League contention they’ll need two quality options in each position.
Who comes in to replace Cash when he’s off form? That’s the concern Emery will have right now and Cash’s latest performance at the AFAS Stadium could well force NSWE to dip into the January market for another right back.
Cash contributed tellingly to the Aston Villa attack throughout the game but was actually handed the worst average score of any Villa player [via SofaScore] at a dreadful 6.2/10 and his underlying stats prove why, winning just three of his eight duels at a worrying success rate of 38% lost possession 11 times and completed just one dribble given he’s expected to provide Villa with the width on the right.
He certainly won’t be axed in the winter, but he could well be replaced by a potential upgrade.
Tielemans masterclass – Emery should be on notice now
Emery will be ecstatic with the performance of Tielemans who certainly delivered a masterful showing in-behind Ollie Watkins.
The 26-year-old has struggled for game time since joining the Villans on a free transfer in the summer from Leicester City and is yet to start a Premier League fixture for the West Midlands club.
The midfielder had appeared to have fallen out of favour under Emery despite only arriving in the summer transfer window.
He made his feelings known about how Emery has been utilising him since his arrival from Leicester City in the summer when speaking to the media on international duty [DH les Sports, 8 September].
Football Insider reported on 11 October that the Belgium international wants to leave Villa Park in January due to a fallout with manager Unai Emery.
However, the Belgian certainly put those doubts surrounding his future to be with this classy showing. On his day, Tielemans is amongst the innovative players in the Premier League and he showed it at the AFAS Stadium.
As per SofaScore, he picked up the second-best rating of any player on the pitch at 7.8/10 and it was duly deserved, as he completed 85% of his passes, registered one key pass and created one big chance, won five of his seven ground duels, won two fouls and recorded one block.
Surely, Emery will now be having severe headaches as to how he fits the Belgian in his starting eleven in the coming weeks.
Lenglet proves a worthy Pau Torres alternative
Eyebrows were certainly raised before the game when Emery decided to rest Ezri Konsa and Pau Torres for the match in favour of starting Diego Carlos and Clement Lenglet.
The Barcelona loanee especially, will have been a critical concern for the Aston Villa support given his limited minutes at the club so far, and going up against one of Europe’s most clinical strikers right now in Vangelis Pavlidis.
However, the Frenchman looked fairly comfortable on Thursday night and his European experience with Tottenham and the Catalonia giants certainly showed as he kept the Greek international hitman from adding to his impressive 14-goal tally so far this campaign.
Lenglet, as per SofaScore, successfully completed 92% of his passes, won three ground duels, won 100% of his dribbles, recorded one clearance, one blocked shot, two interceptions and completed three long balls in an action-packed performance.
It seems as though Aston Villa have turned a corner in their defending in recent weeks, which was certainly affected when Tyrone Mings was ruled out of much of the campaign with a knee injury.
But, Emery can now be rest assured that he holds four quality and experienced centre-backs ready to perform at the utmost elite levels when he needs them. Carlos and Lenglet proved that at the AFAS stadium.