Aston Villa continued their impressive form under the leadership of Unai Emery with a 2-1 victory over Leicester City yesterday.
Emery has already guided his new team to safety with relative ease, after taking over in November with Villa in 16th position, and last weekend went above Chelsea by defeating the Blues 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
This gap has now increased with Villa’s win over the Foxes and Chelsea’s drab 0-0 draw with Liverpool.
The Spaniard now has a realistic chance of qualifying for Europe in his first season at the Midlands outfit with his team sitting seventh in the Premier League with nine matches left to play.
Despite dominating the ball with 64% possession, the game was far from straightforward against a relegation-threatened Leicester team who were without a manager following the sacking of Brendon Rodgers on Sunday.
It wasn’t until the 87th minute that late substitute Bertrand Traore scored the winning goal after Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall had been dismissed for the Foxes for two yellow cards.
With first-choice right back Matty Cash out injured with a calf strain suffered on international duty with Poland, many wondered whether Ezri Konsa would deputise in his absence.
However, it was veteran right-back Ashley Young who arguably delivered the Villans’ most impressive performance.
How did Ashley Young do against Leicester?
Young registered an impressive 7.1 WhoScored rating, for what was a second start in four days for the 37-year-old after the 90 minutes he recorded in West London.
This was bettered only by the scorer of the first goal Ollie Watkins and the man who assisted him, Emiliano Buendia.
The £50k-per-week man’s influence on proceedings was illustrated by him having 81 touches of the ball, making two key passes, and maintaining an impressive pass accuracy of 91%, according to Sofascore.
Young also showcased his defensive solidity by making three clearances, two interceptions, one tackle, and winning nine duels, highlighting his impact on both ends of the pitch.
Journalist Ashley Preece highlighted the former Manchester United’s importance defensively by hailing his ‘crucial interceptions’ – indeed, he registered two of these throughout his 85 minutes on the pitch.
The 39-time England international showed that age is just a number and proved his worth as a valuable asset to the Villa squad, after previously starting the first seven games after the World Cup break.
As the season draws to a close, and Cash likely to return from injury later in April, it will be interesting to see if Emery continues to rely on Young’s experience to guide the team toward the European places.