Aston Villa paid a combined £33million for the full back pairing of Matt Targett and Matty Cash, both of these signings had their doubters within the fanbase. Matt Targett’s form last season led to questions regarding not only his price tag but his ability to play in the Premier League. Whereas Cash’s doubter stemmed from the fact that a fraction of the fan base believed Frederic Guilbert could be Villa’s starting right back this season, therefore the need to spend this money in this position was not of a high priority.
Matt Targett has been one of the stand out performers in this new look Villa squad, and it shows on both ends of the pitch. Going forward Targett has always been promising, which once again is being displayed this season with him leading all Premier League left backs in offensive duals won (64.52%) and successful dribbles (90%). The issue with Targett was whether or not he was a liability when defending, this season he has put these doubts behind him. Possession adjusted stats allow for a clearer defensive ability to be shown, as a team that dominates possession has less defending to do. This leads to defenders on better teams having undervalued defensive statistics. Targett has the most possession adjusted interceptions per game than any left back in the Premier League with 8.46. As well as seeing improvements in other areas such as tackling. Last season he tackled 35.7% of dribblers against him, whereas so far this season he has tackled 53.2%. His successful pressures have also increased from 29.3% to 36%. Overall Targett has addressed the weaknesses in his game and it is leading to him becoming a vital part to Villa’s success.
Cash has also been fantastic this season. Statistically speaking he could be considered one of the best right backs in the league. He has the most successful defensive actions per game at 14.05, as well as like Targett the most possession adjusted interceptions at 11.19 a game. As the graphic below shows, Cash defensively is a master of his craft.
Cash is also very talented going forward providing 3.09 crosses per game with an accuracy of 34.55%, which is greater than Trent Alexander Arnold (26.05%) and Kyle Walker (25%). His impact on this team is clearly shown as without him in the starting 11 against Burnley, Villa struggled to gain momentum and ultimately felt they missed out on an opportunity to gain three points.
Aston Villa have recorded the second most clean sheets in the league (10) and this is due to the defensive unit working cohesively each game, Cash and Targett are a vital part to this. Without them the Villa defence would not be as solid as it is. For example, against Southampton, Villa had an expected goals value of 0.86 xG in comparison to Southampton who had 2.51 xG. Targett recorded 9 tackles in this game which is the most of any Villa player this season, and the third most of any player from any team (@VillaAnalytics). Whilst Cash had a 100% success rate in ground and aerial duels, 3 clearances, 3 tackles and 2 interceptions. The ability to grind a result out away from home with a 1-0 lead like this is paramount to the defensive ability of Villa’s fullbacks, they cannot be taken for granted with what they provide for this team.
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