As expected following his arrival, Unai Emery has brought his own ideas and preferences to Aston Villa, and Matty Cash has found himself in a limited role in recent weeks.
While the 25-year-old started in Emery’s first two Premier League games in charge, he has only added one further start since the World Cup break concluded and that was in a more advanced midfield role against Wolves.
READ MORE: Promising first impression from Villa youngster in brief debut – video
A post-World Cup rest and an injury were also disruptive factors in that period, but ultimately Cash has found himself out of the Villa XI with Ashley Young excelling at right-back in his place.
It should be noted that the wily veteran has done an excellent job in that role, as with Emery wanting more of an attacking threat down the left flank – as evidenced by the signing of Alex Moreno – it requires a balance in the backline and both in and out of possession – with the right-back tucking in and providing cover.
That has suited Young, as he has been diligent defensively and has good awareness, intelligence and positioning to carry out the task efficiently, but despite his incredible fitness levels and durability, he is 37 years of age and so he’s not a long-term solution.
After coming off on the hour mark having taken a couple of knocks against Leicester City, it remains to be seen if Young now faces a spell on the sidelines or is perhaps not risked against Man City this weekend. Given their attacking threat in wide positions, it could arguably be the right decision to use Cash’s pace and energy for this encounter anyway.
However, this is potentially now a vital test that the Polish international must pass. His energy and speed are solid attributes, but he must show he is capable of adapting to Emery’s tactical demands both on and off the ball, and he must get his positioning spot on and tidy up his distribution to play a key role in our build-up play.
It will take a lot of discipline and organisation as we’ve seen Cash check his run forward and sit next to Ezri Konsa instead on a few occasions, whereas prior to Emery he would have bombed forward and created width on that right flank.
Perhaps the Villa boss will play to his strengths too and maximise how much he can get out of him, but there is a balance needed and Cash will need to step up and deliver as his absence from the starting XI arguably suggests that he hasn’t quite convinced the Villa boss as of yet.
It’s potentially a big worry for him if he can’t displace Young, particularly with the Daily Mail reporting last month that Emery remains unconvinced by both him and Lucas Digne, and so changes could be in the offing in the summer.
While we want to see every Villa player succeed and impress, there is a feeling that if Emery doesn’t get the improvement he wants to see out of certain individuals, he will use the summer transfer window as a major springboard to stamp his mark and influence on the squad to bring in players who better suit his ideas and principles.
If Young is indeed either sidelined or rested this weekend, Cash will hope he can dismiss reports like the one above and start to prove again that he can be an important player in Emery’s plans moving forward.