By Villa News Speaking to Alan Hutton

15th Nov, 2023 | 5:44pm

Leon Bailey won't like what BBC pundit says about Aston Villa forward after Unai Emery decision

We’re delighted to welcome former Aston Villa full-back Alan Hutton as our exclusive columnist. Each week he’ll be giving his views on the biggest talking points at Villa Park…

Alan Hutton was surprised by Unai Emery’s decision to drop Nicolo Zaniolo but not start Leon Bailey for Aston Villa’s win over Fulham at the weekend.

Zaniolo’s form has been faltering but the Italian was replaced by Youri Tielemans in the starting line-up and not by Bailey, who has regularly replaced Zaniolo in the Premier League this season.

Villa went on to win the game 3-1 at Villa Park to move themselves within one point of the top four and three points of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Hutton admits that although he did expect Bailey to start, he can understand Emery’s decision simply because the Jamaica international has proven himself to be such an effective substitute this term.

When asked if he was surprised by the decision, Hutton told Villa News: “Yes.

Normally it’s been those two – Zaniolo or Bailey. But I think – and he won’t be happy with me saying this – he gives you such an impact off the bench. I know that no player wants to be that guy but he still gives you a lot.

Bailey’s got the ability to start games, it’s just that the manager went with something different. He played more of a box in the midfield with the two strikers in Moussa Diaby and Ollie Watkins, which sometimes he reverts to and it does work for them.

Unai Emery’s now got the strength in depth there from the likes of Leon Bailey and Nicolo Zaniolo that he can change things. Diaby can also play out wide, Tielemans can come in, which he did and he played a good game.

You need that. You need to be able to rotate.”

According to stats by WhoScored, Bailey has averaged more goals and assists per 90 minutes of Premier League football [1.58] than any other player this season.

The ex-Bayer Leverkusen forward has three goals and three assists in his 10 league outings even though he’s only started two times and averaged 34 minutes per appearance.

In other Aston Villa news, the club has been told to sign a new striker as concerns about Ollie Watkins emerge.