By Dan Carter

10th Nov, 2023 | 7:10am

Lucas Digne must improve after 0% Aston Villa display - Three things learned v AZ Alkmaar

Aston Villa registered their third win of the Europa Conference League group stage with a 2-1 victory over AZ Alkmaar on Thursday 9 November.

Goals from Diego Carlos and Ollie Watkins in the second half ensured that Unai Emery’s side didn’t drop points in Europe for the second time this season, having fallen behind early in the clash as Evangelos Pavlidis opened the scoring for the away side.

Villa now sit six points clear of Zrinjski Mostar in second place of Group E and with only two games left to play, look incredibly likely to qualify for the knockout stages and continue their excellent start to the campaign both in Europe and domestically.

Here’s what Villa News learned from the win.

Diego Carlos shines

Carlos has seen his involvement in the Premier League reduced in recent weeks, with Pau Torres and Ezri Konsa preferred at the heart of the defence, but the Brazilian may have forced his way back into contention with his display against AZ Alkmaar.

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The 30-year-old completed 98 per cent of his 87 attempted passes, won both of his aerial duels and half his ground duels and made an impressive four ball recoveries. All on top of heading home is his first Aston Villa goal with a second-half effort [Fotmob].

It was an impressive effort from Carlos, as the strike only registered an xG of 0.10 and showed that although he isn’t a serial finisher, he provides Emery’s side with an extra threat from set-pieces when picked in defence.

Disastrous night for Digne

So far this season Lucas Digne has been in impressive form at left-back, shining while Alex Moreno has been ruled out with injury. But on Thursday, the Frenchman had one of his poorest displays at Villa Park as he struggled to influence proceedings.

The 30-year-old attempted 10 crosses in the match, failing to find a teammate with a single effort and only registering 0.02 expected assists. Digne didn’t create a single chance in the match and with Moreno returning to the bench, the defender may need to up his game to maintain his place in the starting XI.

Defensively, the Frenchman was solid, winning both of the duels he entered and two free-kicks. But given Villa’s dominance in possession, registering 63 per cent of the ball, he would have hoped to have a greater impact in the final third.

Always rely on Watkins

Watkins has this impressive ability to be completely absent for the majority of a match and then suddenly pop up with an all-important goal from nowhere and exactly that was true at Villa Park on Thursday.

The England international only registered 18 touches in the match and two of those were shots with which he scored the winning goal for Emery’s side. On top of that Watkins created a single chance for his teammates with his only pass into the final third.

Watkins did lose both of his aerial duels and only completed nine passes in the game, but as long as he pops up with match-winning and important strikes, few supporters at Villa Park will be calling for him to touch the ball more often.

In other Aston Villa news, Youri Tielemans may have pushed himself into contention for a start with his cameo against Nottingham Forest