Alan Hutton has certainly endeared himself to the Villa faithful, but that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been a defensive liability for much of his career in claret and blue.
Words by Regan Foy (@FindFoy)
Aston Villa’s so-named “Scottish Cafu” Alan Hutton has placed himself somewhat as a cult figure at the club in recent years, after being ostracised in the early years of his Villa Park career and part of the “bomb squad” that saw the club relegated to the Sky Bet Championship.
He has shown passion, he’s had memorable moments like his goal against Hull on the opening day of the season, and wrote himself into Villa folklore after his Maradona-esque goal against Second City rivals Birmingham City earlier in the season.
But more often than not, Alan Hutton plays a part in our downfall.
The Scottish defender, whether deployed at right-back or left-back, is known for his piercing runs forward – some of which do pay off – but there are numerous times where Hutton runs into trouble, is dispossessed and the tides turn in favour of the opposition.
If it’s not in attack that he’s a liability, then certainly he is defensively. Don’t take this the wrong way – the Scotsman makes some vital interceptions and some crunching tackles, but he’s often at fault for offering the opposition far too much space on whichever side he’s operating on.
It’s no surprise that we struggle when our opposition targets our wing-backs (as shown in yesterday’s performance by Ahmed Elmohamady). Take a look at last season’s play-off final. Who could bear the brunt of the blame for Fulham’s goal? Alan Hutton.
He’s not solely to blame for every goal we concede of course, that lies at the feet of the entire team unless it’s a glaringly obvious mistake by a certain player – but Alan Hutton’s positional awareness leaves us under far more pressure than we need to be, as he’s more often than not drifting into a more central position before moving back to where he should be to stop an already underway attack.
Take a look at the Leeds game at Villa Park, in which Bielsa’s side heavily targeted Hutton, especially in the second half, as it was obvious that Ezgjan Alioski had the upper hand against Villa’s makeshift left-back both physically and quality wise. This also minimised the risk that Aston Villa could pose against rookie fullback Leif Davis.
Most Aston Villa fans will look back fondly and remember Hutton as a player who went from outcast, to ostracised, to cult figure. But that doesn’t mean that he isn’t and hasn’t been a liability for much of his career in claret and blue.
It’ll be surprising if this isn’t the 34-year-old’s last season at Aston Villa, and if Dean Smith doesn’t already have a name in mind to solidify the position in January or next summer.