Should Aston Villa sign a left-back before the end of the loan-window, it’s likely that Alan Hutton and Ritchie De Laet will battle out for the starting spot at right-back.
Words by Shakeel Gillespie (@ShaksShout1874)
Over the last 12 months Alan Hutton has become a massive hit with the Aston Villa faithful and has earned the heart and trust of many involved with the club. Since his impressive form and never-say-die attitude surfaced he has been regularly involved in the starting 11 of Steve Bruce’s men and was awarded with an additional 12 month contract with the club.
A man who has found appearances few and far apart at the club however; Ritchie De Laet, is finally injury free and available for selection once more, following his ban awarded after misconduct in his homeland of Belgium last season. Even when injuries were not an issue for him, last season De Laet was not given a place on the Aston Villa front line and it was unsurprising when word broke that he would serve the remainder of the season with Royal Antwerp on a short term loan spell.
Given the unfortunate situation of loan player departures and the exit of John Terry, the debate is active once more on who will feature in Aston Villa’s all-important back line this season. Disregarding the current rumours surrounding Villa we still have ample choices for centre back – given Elphick’s fantastic performance at the weekend alongside Chester as well as new loanee Axel Tuanzebe. Should Aston Villa strengthen at left-back, that means De Laet and Hutton remain likely options to fill the void at right-back at this present moment in time.
As previously mentioned, De Laet was serving a two match ban which restricted him from participating in the games against Hull and Wigan, and allowed Alan Hutton to feature and score a massive goal in helping to secure a 3-1 victory away from home against a shaky Hull City side, before Tuanzebe appeared at right-back against Wigan.
De Laet has only appeared 5 times since joining Aston Villa, as analysed by Squawka.com, winning 56% of his aerial duels, holding a 69% pass accuracy and an average pass length of 20m. In comparison, as Football Whispers have explored, per 90 minutes last season Alan Hutton completed 2.23 aerial duels, held a 74% pass accuracy and completed an average of 1.17 interceptions per game. Alan has also started this campaign at Hull in fine fashion with a goal, as well as winning all 4 aerial duels, making 4 clearances and maintained his 74% pass accuracy.
Without a doubt these players have had very different experiences at Aston Villa and because of this it can be difficult to compare them. What I speculate to be the decisive factor is that Alan Hutton has an incredible work ethic and contributes to the club in ways many defenders have failed to at Aston Villa in recent years. Bruce realistically has two obvious ways of solving these issues with regards to team selection.
The first of which would be to slowly incorporate De Laet into the squad. This would highlight how De Laet works under pressure and how his contribution would effect the overall defensive performance of Villa.
The alternative option would be to continue attempting to play Ahmed Elmohamady in a midfield position, which would leave the option of playing Hutton in a left-back position, should Aston Villa not strengthen in that position, and thus leaving the right-back position open to experiment playing Ritchie De Laet as a starter in the Villa back line. In my humble opinion I remain adamant that Alan Hutton is the right man for the job however it is true that age is creeping up on him and we need to begin considering a replacement in the event that this season concludes Hutton’s career at Villa.