In November 2013 MOMS wrote an article about how Aston Villa’s right back spot was up for grabs. It praised Matty Lowton’s consistency in 2013, and made judgements on then new signing Leandro Bacuna. Alan Hutton wasn’t even mentioned in the article. How things can change in football.
We are less than a year down the line, and again we can begin to evaluate our options down the right flank. Paul Lambert may already have in his head an idea of who’s going to occupy that spot, but judging by his pre-season starting elevens, he is not giving much away to us, the fans. And if we have learned anything from his two years in charge, it’s that his mind can change rather quickly, and whoever starts the season on Villa’s right side, won’t necessarily be finishing it there.
What happened to Lowton?
It was only a couple of weeks ago that Matt Lowton was linked with a loan move to Middlesbrough. Whilst it’s shocking to see the apparent decline of the 25-year-old signed in Lambert’s first transfer window as Villa boss, the move itself wouldn’t have been all that shocking, considering Alan Hutton’s return to the fray. However any proposed move appears to have been shunned by the gaffer, who sees Lowton as part of his plans, and certainly an option this season.
It is likely that Villa will line up in the now popular 3-5-2 formation away to Stoke on the opening day. This gives the full-backs licence to attack. In fact, it means they must attack, and with quality. This was a system employed at times last season but fans are hopeful we will have more consistent success this year with it, particularly as Lambert has signed two left-sided players that fit perfectly into the role of a wing-back.
The 3-5-2 should suit the right-backs Villa have, given that their attributes lie mainly going forward rather than going back. Matt Lowton’s most impressive attribute is probably his crossing, especially when he provides early balls from deep. There have clearly been problems between him and the manager but on paper he should perhaps be first choice.
The case for Bacuna
Instead, I’d argue that Villa’s first choice ‘right wing-back’ would be Leandro Bacuna. Caught out defensively when playing in a four last year, he was one of the clubs main threats going forward. He is the best set-piece taker in the team (although N’Zogbia may have something to say about that) and will hopefully continue to improve this year.
Phoenix from the flames…and some
However, it is Alan Hutton’s pre-season form that has won over Lambert, Keane and the Villa faithful so far, and he has probably done enough to win his place in Villa’s opening game, so long as the management team feel his fitness is up to scratch.
Hutton has always been lauded for his abilities in the final third and his energy up and down the right flank. Even when he wasn’t playing any club football he has always been first choice for Scotland and performed well considering how little time on the park he’s had in the last couple of years. He has been talking a good game in the press, claiming a ‘new lease of life’ after his surprise recall to the squad. Having been given a respectable squad number and a starting place in Villa’s strongest lineups during pre-season, he could be set for a sensational return and fingers-crossed, a sensational season down Villa’s right.
Follow Elliot on Twitter here