How Digne is already having key influence on Villa’s improved play

After completing his move to Aston Villa earlier this month, Lucas Digne is already having an important impact on our play just two games in.

As per BBC Sport, the the 28-year-old arrived from Everton in a reported £25m move, thus making him an expensive but established signing to bring additional quality to Steven Gerrard’s squad.

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The Villa boss has been busy stamping his mark on the squad that he inherited from Dean Smith so far this month, and Digne is showing already after two games why his new manager was so keen to bring him to Villa Park.

After impressing on his debut against Man Utd, he played an important role in our win at Everton last weekend, and his assist for Emi Buendia’s goal aside, it was his general play that also stood-out.

Digne’s positioning, attacking play crucial for Villa

As seen in the tweet below, the first noticeable difference when comparing Digne to Matt Targett, who has dropped out of the side since his arrival, is their respective positioning on the pitch.

While Targett is largely more conservative and within the limit of our own half, Digne is predominately sat near or on the half-way line throughout the game on both sides of it.

Not only does that push the opposition’s right back deeper into a defensive role, but it gives us an option to go out wide on the left with either a switch of play or a progressive move across the pitch, while Digne also stretches the field and drags players across to open up spaces more centrally for the likes of Jacob Ramsey, Philippe Coutinho and Buendia to exploit.

We saw that with our two goals against Man Utd, as that trio were highly influential in both goals as Digne dragged Diogo Dalot across to the left flank and that in turn opened up spaces in the Utd backline for the trio above to run into.

Further, Digne’s attacking game is undoubtedly superior to that of Targett’s. That’s reflected in the number of touches, crosses, key passes and the assist we’ve seen from him already, and his ability to break forward into great positions to either create for others or provide a direct threat himself is already there to see.

In contrast, Targett’s offensive play was very limited post Jack Grealish, and so it’s certainly something that Gerrard identified, and has seemingly also rectified with the signing of Digne.

That said, there was a concern over the Frenchman’s defensive ability, as that historically hasn’t been as strong as his play going forward. Nevertheless, he showed with his interceptions, clearances and blocked crosses against Everton that he is more than up to the task regarding that aspect of his game and at the very least, offers just as much solidity as Targett.

There has been so much to enjoy about Digne’s two performances so far, and given he hasn’t had that much time to settle, adapt and work with his new teammates, it promises to get better for him in a Villa shirt as Gerrard continues to look for ways to strengthen his squad in this transfer window.