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Leon Bailey - the Latest Piece of the Attacking Jigsaw?

Updated: Aug 16, 2021

Jamaican winger, Leon Patrick Bailey has been heavily linked with a move to Aston Villa from Bayer Leverkusen over the last couple of weeks, as yet another exciting addition to our already explosive attack. Fans of the Bundesliga will already be very familiar with Leon Bailey, although fans who do not watch the Bundesliga will need to make themselves familiar with the Jamaican soon, with his move to Villa Park seeming, potentially, likely and that is what this piece is about!

Leon Bailey was born in 1997, making him *almost* 24, giving him time to improve his already useful skillset. Bailey is a left-footed right-winger, which of course fits into AVFC's system of inverted wingers, with Grealish, Buendía and Bertrand Traore all fitting that too! Progressive and quick, Bailey is a superb ball carrier, with him in the 73rd percentile for Progressive Carries per 90, and is in the 93rd percentile for dribbles completed in terms of wingers!

In terms of pressing, Leon Bailey is very intriguing. Although he does not less often for Bayer Leverkusen, more than only 14% of players in his position, but when he does press, he does it successfully, with a very impressive 31% of his pressures being successful. Although 31% may not sound like much, that is more than 88% of the players in his position! As well as this, Bailey has a huge amount of ball recoveries, 7.69 per 90, putting him in the 86th percentile!

The Jamaican's attacking output is also solid. First of all, Bailey scores virtually a goal every other game, getting 0.47 per 90! In non-penalty xG, Bailey gets 0.36 per 90, which is more than 91% of players in his position, and outperforms his xG by 0.10 per 90, which shows his impressive finishing. For those who do not know what xG is, check out this article from Goal Bailey also outperforms Bertrand Traore in Goals-xG, and xA, another reason he would improve the XI drastically! In reality, Bailey got a very impressive 17 direct goal involvements in just 25 starts in Germany's Top Flight, which would put him second in the Villa squad, two involvements behind Ollie Watkins, and one ahead of Jack Grealish! Obviously this is a far from perfect measure of a player, with them playing in different leagues, level of team, play style etc etc.

FBREF's 'Similar Players' feature brings some interesting results up when you put Leon Bailey into it, with some players in the top 10 most similar players to him including familiar names such as Leroy Sané, Sadio Mané, Kylian Mbappé, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling. As most of you will know the playstyle of these players, it will probably make Bailey's style of play, with these players being famous for their electric, direct style of play that Bailey of course also has.

Career wise, Bailey started his senior career in Europe with Genk in Belgium, aged just 17 at the beginning of the 2015/16 season, in which he scored 6 times in 35 appearances in his first season in professional football, earning him the Young Player of the Season award in the Pro League. After another stellar season in Belgium, he earned himself a switch to Bayer Leverkusen where he has been ever since, where he's scored himself the VDV (The German equivalent to the PFA) Newcomer of the Season award, and a place in the VDV and Bundesliga Team of the Season in that same season.

When/if Bailey completes his move to Villa Park, he would most likely play on either side of a front three, preferably on the right, which would mean a slight positional tweak for either Emi Buendía or Jack Grealish, presumably with one of them slotting into a number ten role, rather than the inverted winger role that both players have been used to playing. Buendía and Grealish's qualities, however, are a brilliant fit for this role, and they do operate lots in the half-spaces anyway, which is where a modern number ten does most of their creative work. The role is slightly different but I believe that either Grealish or Buendía would be able to play it to a very very high level!

Villa have already had a bid rejected for the Jamaican, who is currently on international duty, but are believed to go in with a second bid.

For just ~£30m *rumoured, I believe Leon Bailey may just be a very tidy piece of business from the Villa hierarchy!

Tom Caldwell | Edited by The AVFC Faithful

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