Villa duo stake claim for starting roles despite defeat

While the disappointment of our defeat to Arsenal overshadowed most positives, Aston Villa boss Unai Emery has a potential selection headache ahead of him.

The Spaniard opted to shuffle his pack in the full-back positions on Saturday, with Matty Cash and Alex Moreno coming in for Ashley Young and Lucas Digne respectively.

READ MORE: Why Emery message to Villa squad should be focus amid Martinez talk

In a bid to perhaps match up with the energy and pace that Arsenal had on the flanks, it was a wise call from Emery, although it didn’t help prevent a disappointing defensive performance in which we gifted goals to the visitors with individual and collective mistakes.

Both Moreno and Cash will have to take their share of the responsibility for that, but they showed good signs defensively at times too as they tried to be aggressive and win back possession higher up the pitch to implement one aspect of the style in which Emery wants us to play.

Further, their ability to get up and down the flanks to provide width and an attacking outlet was important too, and it resulted in both registering an assist in the game.

As we see in the videos of the goals below, it was Cash who won possession back before setting Ollie Watkins on his way towards another goal with a lovely floated ball over the top, and so it was top play from the Polish international in both phases of the game.

For our second goal, it was Moreno who provided the assist for Philippe Coutinho, having made a dangerous run in behind on the left side before playing a good ball across to find the Brazilian who produced a fine finish.

Emery has spoken previously about wanting goals and assists from right across the Villa XI to take the responsibility and pressure off Watkins and share it around the entire side.

While there are clear strengths and advantages that Young and Digne have too, hence their inclusion in the starting line-up for several recent games, both Cash and Moreno made a case to remain in the side moving forward, and at the very least have given Emery something to think about with his selections against Everton this weekend.

With different opposition comes different characteristics that will be better suited to nullifying their threat and also giving us a crucial dynamic in the final third too. In turn, it’s important firstly that Emery has flexibility and options at his disposal to give us the best possible chance of getting three points.

He has that in the full-back positions, and while it remains to be seen if Cash or Moreno, or both, retain their spots at Goodison Park, there is arguably a strong argument particularly in favour of the latter to remain in the Villa XI as he just offers that little bit more quality than his competition.

Time will tell what Emery goes with as he will no doubt methodically analyse his options during the week, but Cash and Moreno do have important attributes that make them well-equipped to implement our preferred game-plan, especially away from home. That said, do Young and Digne allow us to gain the all-important element of control that Emery is still desperately seeking from his side on a consistent basis?

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