Credit to Villa ace as he impresses after winning starting spot back

After initially playing a key role following Unai Emery’s appointment, Matty Cash has had to battle to win his place back in the Aston Villa XI.

The 25-year-old started in our wins over Man Utd and Brighton prior to the World Cup break in Emery’s first two games at the helm, but he found himself in a limited role following the conclusion of events in Qatar and had to bide his time as Ashley Young impressed in his place.

READ MORE: McGinn offers important assessment despite Villa rectifying key issue

There was the failed experiment of playing Cash in a more advanced role on the right flank against Wolves, but that was his only start in a run of six Premier League games as he was limited to a role off the bench in the latter stages.

Further, there was also talk in January that Emery wasn’t convinced by either the Polish international or Lucas Digne, as per the Daily Mail, and so at that stage, there was concern over whether or not Cash would be able to adapt and adjust to the demands being placed on him by the Villa boss.

However, he is gradually putting that behind him and has now started three consecutive league games, registering an assist against Arsenal while forcing the own-goal with his cross that ultimately proved to be the winner against Crystal Palace this weekend.

While the Arsenal game was overshadowed by the fact that we conceded four goals at home again and eventually lost, that’s back-to-back clean sheets that Cash has also now been involved in, and so as a defensive unit, it feels as though Villa are moving in the right direction now and he’s a key part of that.

The tactical demands might have changed under Emery, but we know we can expect energy, tenacity, commitment and an ability to provide width when pushing forward from Cash.

He won 11 of 13 duels on Saturday, registered five tackles and one clearance while having 69 touches of the ball, 89% passing completion and he successfully attempted three of four dribbles.

As revealed by John McGinn after the game, there was a tactical tweak from Emery in this one too as he wanted his full-backs to get forward and exploit the spaces down the flanks created by our midfielders dropping deep and more central, and that was never more evident than for the goal when McGinn played in Cash perfectly.

He’s made the adjustments needed to solidify his place in the Villa XI again, defensively and in terms of what he can offer going forward, and it’s an important boost for us if he can kick on and further develops his game under Emery as there is of course still plenty of room for improvement.

Young was excellent during his run in the side and he will continue to provide real competition. However, given his advancing years, he’s not a long-term solution, and if Cash can prove he’s up for the challenge of being Emery’s first-choice, long-term right-back, it will allow the Villa boss to focus on other key areas this summer.

It could be that Cash still ends up facing more competition as the Villa boss looks to mould the squad into his own, but it’s good to see him respond positively to his spell out of the line-up, and amid the speculation over Emery’s view on him as per the report above, it was an important test for him that he is seemingly now passing.

Cash heatmap Villa-Palace
Matty Cash heat-map vs Palace

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