By Dan Carter

2nd Nov, 2023 | 7:10am

Aston Villa receive injury boost as Alex Moreno spotted in first team training

Aston Villa have enjoyed an excellent start to the season, with Unai Emery’s side sitting only a point outside the Champions League places.

It has almost been forgotten that Villa have had to contend with several injury issues in the early stages of the season, with Tyrone Mings, Emi Buendia and Jacob Ramsey all seeing their opportunities limited as they recover in the treatment room.

But one player has finally made his long-awaited return to first-team training, as Alex Moreno has joined the rest of Emery’s side at Bodymoor Heath as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury [Express & Star, 1 November].

It won’t be simple for the Spanish defender to reclaim his place at left-back given the impressive form of Lucas Digne so far this season, but the 30-year-old was exceptional following his move from Real Betis in last year’s January transfer window.

Moreno played 15 matches for Aston Villa last season, picking up three assists and creating nine goal-scoring chances as he took to life in the Premier League with relative ease [Fotmob].

The former Real Betis man was one of the most creative full-backs in the division, placing in the 91st percentile of all his positional peers for assists per 90 minutes and the 89th for expected assisted goals per game [Fbref].

Although it isn’t a defender’s job to score consistently, Moreno has struggled to convert his own chances when he has ventured into the box, having yet to score in claret and blue, despite having a higher non-penalty xG than the 55 per cent of full-backs.

On the ball, the left-back repeatedly struck fear into opposition right-backs, averaging an impressive 4.4 progressive carries a match, placing him in the 97th percentile of his positional peers and sitting in the top nine per cent of full-backs for successful take-ons, touches in the opposition box and progressive passes received.

Defensively, the 30-year-old has to improve this season as he was in the bottom 19 per cent of Premier League full-backs for tackles per game and the worryingly low fifth percentile for interceptions, averaging one less than every other match.

Digne is likely to continue to start for Aston Villa in the coming weeks, having already picked up two assists in 10 Premier League matches so far this campaign. But as Emery’s side continue to play two matches a week with their Europa Conference League commitments, the added depth Moreno provides will be a boost.

Especially in European games where Villa face low defensive blocks, Moreno’s ability to drive his side up the field on the ball with his expressive pace and dribbling ability could help Emery’s side to create more chances.

This is just yet more positive news for Emery and the club.

In other Aston Villa news, Ollie Watkins has shown that he has so much more to his game than goals against Luton Town