Villa youngster impresses as he stakes claim for bigger role

After signing Jhon Duran in January, the expectation was that Aston Villa boss Unai Emery would gradually integrate him into his XI, but the promising early signs from him could suggest a change in the speed of that process.

Speaking on Duran for the first time in his pre-Leicester City press conference, Emery noted that while the 19-year-old Colombian would get minutes and opportunities, he was keen to avoid putting too much pressure and responsibility on his young shoulders too soon.

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However, his stance seemingly changed fairly soon after that as he suggested that while Duran was one for the future, the future is now, particularly given our limited options up front following the sale of Danny Ings.

“Yes he has potential but he has to work as well, tactically, offensively and defensively,” he told BBC Sport after our defeat to Man City on Sunday. “He has to adapt to his team-mates and our rhythm and as well every minute he is playing now on the pitch is very good for him, for the team but we have to be patient with him.”

That will be an ongoing process and a learning experience for Duran. If he hopes to solidify his place in the Villa XI and become a key player for us, he has to soak up every instruction and bit of advice that Emery and his coaching staff give him.

It will be beneficial for his development and career in a Villa shirt, and it will reduce the time it takes for him to start becoming a decisive figure for us in the final third and helping us achieve our objective this season.

As we can see in the video below of his performance against City, Duran really does look like a handful. Whether it’s drifting out to the right wing or playing through the middle, he has the physicality, aerial prowess, technical quality and passing ability to add an important new dynamic to our attacking play.

Further, we also saw positive signs of a potential partnership building with Ollie Watkins as they linked up well at times, and so with his ability to come short and help in our build-up play, to offer a target man option for the long ball or to play off another striker, Duran is hopefully going to make a big contribution between now and the end of the season.

While Emery is right in that he does have a long way to go still, the Villa boss is potentially facing a difficult decision sooner rather than later. Although Leon Bailey offers a threat with his pace, directness and finishing ability, the fact is that the 25-year-old is still struggling with consistency.

In 11 appearances under Emery thus far, nine of which were as a starter, he has managed just two goals and no assists.

That isn’t enough from such an important player in our attack, and unless he can find some form and quickly, Duran is going to be knocking on that door louder each week to potentially replace him in the starting line-up.

Emery does have other options he can go with, namely deploying Emiliano Buendia closer to Watkins as a pairing, with John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey playing on the flanks.

However, with what we’re seeing from Duran, and admittedly it is only 38 minutes of football in a Villa shirt as of yet, he’s showing potential and the ability to adapt quickly to us and the Premier League, and that could see him earn a promotion into a bigger role much earlier than many would have predicted.

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