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Aston Villa solidified their standing as genuine contenders for the Premier League title with an impressive first-half performance against Arsenal on Saturday, December 9th.
Unai Emery’s squad went into halftime leading 1-0 at Villa Park, courtesy of John McGinn’s early goal orchestrated by Leon Bailey’s moment of brilliance. However, the outcome could have been different had Bukayo Saka converted an early chance, leaving Arsenal with an early lead. Saka’s maneuver off Lucas Digne prompted Jamie Carragher to criticize the Frenchman for momentarily switching off, dubbing him a “lucky boy.”
Carragher highlighted the need for constant vigilance on the pitch, acknowledging the high-quality talent in play and emphasizing the consequences of momentary lapses in focus.
Throughout the first half, Digne faced a formidable challenge from Saka, winning only 50% of the duels he entered and notably not attempting a single tackle, as reported by Fotmob. This performance reflects a broader trend for Digne this season, where he ranks in the bottom 11% for tackles won per 90 minutes among Premier League fullbacks, according to Fbref.
While Digne often emerges successfully from duels, his infrequent attempts (1.84 times per match) to challenge dribblers fall well below the league average, hindering Arsenal’s defensive efforts against Saka’s wide advances.
Notably, Digne struggles in intercepting passes, ranking in the 38th percentile for passes blocked per match among his positional peers. Additionally, 95% of fullbacks block more shots than the 30-year-old, underscoring a deficiency in this aspect of his defensive game.
Despite his less-than-stellar defensive contributions, Digne conceded a mistimed challenge resulting in a foul. In possession, Digne had limited impact, with only 14 touches and unsuccessful attempts at crossing. With Arsenal dominating possession, he attempted only six passes, completing 71% of them while surrendering possession three times.
Digne even took a shot at David Raya’s goal from a free-kick position, but his effort into the wall lacked efficacy, highlighting a potential need for more dynamic offensive contributions.
Considering these defensive lapses and a lack of impact in possession, there is a suggestion that Emery may consider replacing Digne with Alex Moreno in the second half to bolster the left-back position and thwart further opportunities for Saka. This strategic move could enhance Aston Villa’s defensive solidity and maintain their lead in the pursuit of Premier League glory.