Emery still searching for solution to unlock Villa ace’s impact

While there have been countless positives since Unai Emery arrived, the Aston Villa boss still faces the challenge of getting the best out of Leon Bailey.

The 25-year-old made the ideal first impression after scoring in Emery’s first game in charge against Man Utd, but despite featuring in all 12 Premier League games since in some capacity, Bailey has only been able to add one goal to his tally and no assists.

READ MORE: Emery dismisses injury concern, offers insight on Villa star’s improvement

For a player with his potential and quality, he’ll know himself that’s not good enough, especially given the ongoing faith being shown in him and the key role that he plays in our attacking set-up.

With Emery continuing to stick with him though, he’s seemingly doing something right as part of the collective performance to keep his spot in the pecking order – albeit it could be argued there is a lack of depth too – and it’s clear that the Spanish tactician puts significant importance on the defensive job that the Jamaican international does, as per his comments below after the West Ham game on Sunday.

“Leon Bailey, he’s playing in his best position in the squad and we’re speaking to him, trying to improve and to use his characteristic getting wide, one-on-one and sometimes playing more between a No.7 and No.9,” Emery told reporters, as quoted by BirminghamLive. “He can have better moments and I told him before the match that, sometimes, to play a brilliant match is not only offensively but sometimes defensively.

“We will need to do it and our performances away before this match were winning four from five. Today we drew. That is very good performances. Basically it’s because defensively we’re very committed with everybody and we have to be brilliant defensively.”

While that’s of course a fair point as to become harder to beat and more resilient, especially away from home, the entire XI needs to buy into the defensive duties that they’re assigned. However, we need more from our attacking players to support Ollie Watkins, who has now scored six of our last 10 goals in the Premier League, with two of those additional four being own goals.

It’s great to see him in such good form and it’s hoped he can maintain that between now and the end of the season, but we must lessen that burden on him through others chipping in and contributing more, and if Bailey is going to continue to feature so heavily in our line-up, he has to step up and produce more quality.

He’ll come under pressure now from the likes of Bertrand Traore and Jhon Duran, but it’s a challenge that Emery will no doubt remain desperate to solve as he continues to look for a role and position on the pitch where Bailey can be at his most threatening.

Based on his comments above, it’s clear what Emery is looking for and he’s communicated that to Bailey, so is it a case of the player himself simply struggling to adapt and adjust to the demands being asked of him and not finding the balance between his defensive work and where he should be when we’re in possession?

There is a sense that Emiliano Buendia can be more effective and is capable of making a bigger impact when he plays closer to, and in support of, Watkins, and so Bailey should perhaps be deployed on the right side where if he’s put in the right situations, he’s in a position to run at the full-back in 1v1 scenarios and create openings either for himself or for others.

If he’s deployed further up the pitch, it feels as though he’s either often stuck with his back to goal or is crowded out before he can turn and cause issues with his pace and direct running, and his impact is almost entirely nullified as he has shown no real indication as of yet that he has the technical quality and eye for playing key passes to unlock defences.

Time will tell if Emery persists or looks to others to offer us a new dynamic in the final third, but from Bailey’s perspective, he’ll be desperate to start making an impact sooner rather than later as it may well determine his long-term future too as Emery looks ahead to stamping his mark on the squad this summer.

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