Aston Villa boss Unai Emery is reportedly unconvinced by Lucas Digne and Matty Cash, and could look to address our right-back position in the summer.
While the more immediate focus is on potential reinforcements arriving this month to add to the signings of Alex Moreno and Jhon Duran, the expectation is that it will be a busy summer too as Emery continues to mould the Villa squad into his own.
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His focus since being appointed in October has been to improve the options he inherited and get more out of the squad. While our form in the Premier League suggests he’s done that successfully so far, he may find it difficult to land his priority targets this month as he looks to only bring in signings who significantly improve what we already have.
As per the Daily Mail’s Tom Collomosse, Emery has been given control to make key decisions at Villa moving forward, more than what Dean Smith and Steven Gerrard had before him.
While it’s reported that we could sign at least another attacking player before the transfer deadline next week, the report goes on to suggest that Emery isn’t entirely content with his options in the full-back roles either.
It’s added that he remains unconvinced by Digne and Cash, and while Moreno solves the issue at left-back as a first-choice option, signing a right-back could be on the agenda this summer with Ashley Young – who has impressed after replacing Cash in the Villa XI – turning 38 later this year.
Moreno first choice, replace Digne?
Looking at the left-back options first, Moreno’s impressive start would suggest that he is the long-term solution as an Emery signing, as he gives us defensive solidity coupled with width and an attacking threat that’s vital in the Villa coach’s system. He was his first signing at the club for a reason, and the early signs are promising.
Ludwig Augustinsson will see his loan deal come to an end in the summer, but Emery has publicly stated that he could leave before then.
“I spoke with Augustinsson, and after we signed Alex Moreno, I want two players in this position and it’s Alex Moreno and Lucas Digne,” Emery told the media at his pre-Southampton press conference. “He [Augustinsson] is still here but I think in his mind as well is to leave.”
While Digne offers solid cover and competition, he turns 30 in the summer and is one of the top earners at Villa. That could be a major factor in why we potentially move on from him in the summer, as that’s an expensive option – who’s value will continue to drop – to predominantly be sitting on the bench.
Cash to win place back or be replaced?
Over at right-back, Cash has been a committed and determined presence in our backline since arriving in 2020, and it would be a shame to see him replaced. He has improved, developed and become an international player, but this is surely more about characteristics and what Emery wants from his right-back.
That said, Young is currently keeping him out of the side as he is seemingly better suited to what Emery wants in that role, and with his age in mind, we do need a long-term solution there if Cash isn’t the right fit.
It’s important not to forget youngster Kaine Kesler Hayden in all of this too, as from the crop of talented youngsters who have come through in recent years, he is arguably the best prospect and it’s hoped he gets a chance under Emery.
Time will tell how the situation plays out in the full-back positions, but it seems that both Digne and Cash have a fight on their hands in the coming months to perhaps change Emery’s mind, and in turn his plans for the future beyond this season.