After arriving as Unai Emery’s first signing as Aston Villa boss, Alex Moreno will hope to play a pivotal role for us moving forward down our left flank.
The 29-year-old impressed immediately as he showed a quick adaptation to the Premier League, and he has since gone on to make eight appearances while registering two assists.
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We saw his attacking quality again on Sunday as he provided the delivery for Ollie Watkins to head home, and Moreno was a constant threat down our left side in the first half as he broke forward into threatening areas and had time and space to pick out a dangerous pass into the box.
However, there were question marks over the defensive phase of the game again, and it’s important to note we struggled on both flanks so it isn’t necessarily singling out the Spaniard, with Matty Cash having his hands full on a difficult afternoon for him as well.
Speaking after the game, Emery was asked whether or not he was worried about the way West Ham enjoyed success against us in wide areas, but the Villa boss was seemingly happy with the adjustments made.
“No. I am not worried about it,” he told the media, as per BirminghamLive. “I am concerned that we have to avoid the opponent when they attack with the winger. It was the same at Everton. We did better there but, today, we corrected it. In minute 30 we spoke with Alex Moreno and in the dressing room and we corrected it. I think we did better.”
Moreno went on to play 64 minutes before being replaced by Lucas Digne, ending his performance with an assist, one blocked shot, one interception, one tackle, 61 touches, 84 percent passing completion, three key passes, one big chance created and four of six successful dribble attempts.
However, he was also dribbled past twice, had one error which led to a shot, won just six of 13 duels and lost possession 14 times.
It’s clear what the remit from Emery is for Moreno. He’s given license to get forward, provide width and an attacking outlet down our left side and create for our midfielders and forwards who can get numbers into the box.
He’s been an exciting and impactful addition thus far, but as he and Digne continue to alternate in that left-back role, the Spaniard will have to shore things up defensively to make that position his own in the coming weeks and months before the end of the season.
If he can tidy up in possession – which is also on his teammates too in terms of giving him an option rather than forcing him into holding onto the ball too long – and offer stability in a defensive sense on our left side along with Tyrone Mings, then Moreno will be the first choice option in that department.
He also perhaps misses the presence of Boubacar Kamara in midfield too, with the Frenchman’s ability to provide cover and read danger to get across when needed, and so that balance will be important when he returns from injury.
Digne will still have a role to play and may be considered better suited to certain games by Emery depending on the opposition. However, we’ve arguably seen enough from Moreno already to suggest that he is the more effective and dynamic left-back option for us, if he can find that balance in both phases of the game.