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Aston Villa cemented their position as serious title contenders with an excellent first-half performance against Arsenal on Saturday, December 9th.
Unai Emery’s team led 1-0 at halftime at Villa Park, thanks to John McGinn’s early goal, which was set up by Leon Bailey’s moment of brilliance. However, the outcome may have been different if Bukayo Saka had converted an early opportunity, giving Arsenal a 1-0 lead. Saka’s move off Lucas Digne prompted Jamie Carragher to criticise the Frenchman for briefly turning off, labelling him a “lucky boy.”
Carragher emphasised the need of maintaining constant alertness on the pitch, recognising the high-quality talent on display and emphasising the implications of brief slips in concentration.
According to Fotmob, Digne faced a strong test from Saka throughout the first half, winning only 50% of the duels he entered and not attempting a single tackle. This performance follows a larger trend for Digne this season, in which he sits in the bottom 11% of Premier League fullbacks in terms of tackles won per 90 minutes, according to Fbref.
While Digne frequently wins duels, his few attempts to confront dribblers (1.84 times per match) are considerably below the league average, hampering Arsenal’s defensive efforts against Saka’s wide advances.
Digne, in particular, struggles with pass interception, being in the 38th percentile for passes blocked per match among his positional counterparts. Furthermore, 95% of fullbacks block more shots than the 30-year-old, highlighting a weakness in this facet of his defensive game.
Despite his less-than-stellar defensive performances, Digne was called for a foul on a mistimed challenge. Digne’s effect in possession was limited, with only 14 touches and fruitless efforts at crossing. He tried only six passes while Arsenal dominated possession, completing 71% of them while ceding possession three times.
Digne even took a free-kick shot at David Raya’s goal, but his effort into the wall was ineffective, showing a possible need for more creative offensive contributions.
Given these defensive failings and a lack of effectiveness in possession, Emery may consider replacing Digne with Alex Moreno in the second half to fortify the left-back position and deny Saka more opportunities. This tactical change could improve Aston Villa’s defensive stability and help them maintain their lead in the Premier League title race.