Aston Villa boss Unai Emery has insisted that both Ashley Young and Matty Cash are important for him, and has hinted at what gives the former the edge currently.
Cash started Emery’s first two Premier League games in charge prior to the World Cup, but he has been named in the Villa XI just once in the league in six games since the break concluded, and that was in a more advanced role on the right side against Wolves.
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In his place, Young has impressed in recent weeks and established himself as a regular starter, with the wily veteran seemingly a better fit for what Emery wants from his right-back.
With an emphasis on attacking play down the left flank, particularly after the signing of Alex Moreno, the Villa boss arguably wants defensive solidity, tactical awareness and positioning to be priorities for his right-back who tends to tuck inside, and Young has certainly done well in those areas.
Further, his distribution under pressure as we play out from the back has been better than what we’ve seen from Cash, and so ultimately on the balance of what they’ve produced on the pitch, it’s understandable why Young has emerged as Emery’s first-choice.
A report from the Daily Mail last month suggested that Emery is still unconvinced by both Cash and Lucas Digne, but he insisted this week that the Polish international is still an important player for him.
“Young and Cash are very important players,” Emery said, as quoted by BirminghamLive. “I prefer to play all the competitions and if we are playing more matches they will have more opportunities to play more.
“Now they can only play one and Ashley Young is doing very well. He is still fit. I want to continue trying to take the best decision with each one. With Young I am going to be very demanding and always ask for more.”
As mentioned above though, this arguably does come down to who fits into Emery’s system and style of play best, and as he went on to discuss those factors, it seems as though both through his words and actions in terms of who he is selecting, that Young is better suited to what he’s asking for in that role.
That’s not to suggest that Cash can’t develop and adapt, but that’s a challenge for him between now and the end of the season to prove to Emery that he can deliver.
While Young doesn’t look like he’s anywhere near being done performing at the top level, he does turn 38 this summer and so if Cash can’t tick the right boxes, Emery may potentially consider that an area that needs to be addressed, just as he did at left-back with the signing of Moreno in January.
“I am trying to support them, trying to help them every day in the training session, how they can improve and use our tactical decision in each match. Trying to not change our style and improve our style and take confidence with the tactical decision we have in each match.
“We want to build up, use our goalkeeper to build up from the centre back and trying to take good decisions in each moment to do better. For us, the confidence is the first step. When we are in front, it’s up to us to do the tactical decisions, and I say it as myself as the coach, to do better.”