By Richard Wakefield
De Laet Begins His Aston Villa Career
Ritchie De Laet’s arrival on a three-year deal for a reported £2.5 million fee is the latest attempt by Aston Villa to solve the eternal right-back problem in the team.
The player becomes the third ex-United player to join Villa in this window, following United youth players Pierluigi Gollini and James Chester into Villa Park. While Cardiff City were also interested in the former Leicester City player, he chose Villa.
Wearing the number 27 shirt, De Laet will be looked at as the new starting right-back to complete the solid back four that Di Matteo has built over the summer. However with Leandro Bacuna performing well this season so far, De Laet might not be a shoe-in for the right-back berth just yet.
It is undoubtable that Ritchie De Laet’s main asset is his pace, something that has alluded most Villa defensive players over the years. The Villa team of last year, really struggled to hit the opposition on the counter leading to a severe lack of goals causing the inevitable relegation.
With De Laet adding width and a burst of pace to the right flank, Aston Villa can once again pose a threat to the opponent when their numbers are thin at the back. Giving Di Matteo as many options as possible for attacking can only be a positive, as this allows Villa to sit back a little deeper now having the comfort of knowing they can catch the opposition on the break more effectively.
The last few seasons Aston Villa’s right-back position has been filled with Alan Hutton, Matthew Lowton and Leandro Bacuna. These three players have both their upsides and downsides, making them all pretty average players and when it comes to having mediocrity in a position, competition is needed. Whilst Ritchie De Laet isn’t a bad player, he certainly isn’t the second coming of Dani Alves, meaning himself and Bacuna can now push each other’s performances to their highest standards as they compete for that place in starting XI.
As Alan Hutton seems to be on the way out and with Bacuna being able to fill in at central and right-midfield, Ritchie De Laet would certainly be the first choice player it would seem, as he is a natural right-back unlike Bacuna.
De Laet has a very unique statistic to his name which is he is one of the only players to win the Premier League as well as being promoted from the Championship in the same season. Making 12 appearances for Leicester City last term as well as 10 for Middlesbrough enabled this strange feat.
It could be argued that being promoted with Middlesbrough and Leicester from the Championship, as well as winning the Premier League with the Foxes, shows that Ritchie De Laet has been trusted by different managers to secure ambitious goals for their current clubs.
Ritchie De Laet in Stats
When breaking down Ritchie De Laet’s stats from last year, the results are skewed due to playing in two different divisions (Premier League & Championship). However, if we average the stats together to get a combined 22 appearances for both Middlesbrough and Leicester City, we can see that Ritchie De Laet has been surprisingly solid defensively. With a 1.6 tackles per game rate and a 2.1 interceptions per game rate, De Laet is ultimately a player that will occasionally win the ball back.
However comparing this with Alan Hutton’s 2 tackles per game and 1.9 interceptions per game rate from the last campaign, many may draw questions over De Laet’s defensive contributions as Alan Hutton wasn’t exactly heralded as a brilliant defender for Villa last term.
No Love Lost
Unfortunately, Ritchie De Laet isn’t exactly perfect. Despite being a Premier League winner and getting Middlesbrough promoted, De Laet has found himself struggling to get first team football for either side during the 2015/16 season. This is mainly due to the general consensus that De Laet doesn’t have that greatest defensive qualities for a right-back. Despite having good attacking qualities, De Laet is often caught ball watching or out of position.
Whilst De Laet did make 115 appearances for Leicester City over 4 years, De Laet’s next most successful spell at a club came in 2011 where he played 22 times for Portsmouth and then 10 times for Middlesbrough last season. After failing to make the grade at Manchester United, this shows that De Laet has never really been a coveted player throughout his career and has only ever been valued at one club.
With Aston Villa being his 11th club at the age of 27, Ritchie De Laet could be labelled as a journeyman.
However it should be noted that the majority of the clubs De Laet has played for have been loan spells when he was under contract at Manchester United. Also the three most successful spells at clubs that were previously mentioned were all in the Championship, giving him valuable experience at this level.
Ritchie De Laet isn’t a signing that will set the Championship on fire, nor will he become a club legend for his solid defensive work. However De Laet is a hard working player who has an abundance of Championship experience. Being able to play along the entire defensive line and offering defensive cover as well as competition for places, the cheap price tag has ultimately bought the club a player that adds into the Aston Villa mix something that we were sorely missing – width and pace.
Follow Richard Wakefield on Twitter at @_RichardAVFC
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