Keinan Davis has more often than not appeared from the bench this season – with ten-minute bullying sessions of opposition defenders.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Some may argue that Keinan Davis isn’t up to the exceptionally high demands of professional football, judging by the number of re-occurring injuries the forward has picked up over his last two seasons at Aston Villa.
Last season, Davis was ruled out for a lengthy period with a niggling pelvic injury before picking up the odd knock here and there in training. This season, the former Biggleswade Town forward – who recently turned 22-years-old – has struggled with a hamstring issue that has plagued him in both Carabao Cup and Under 23 appearances.
But when the striker has been fit, and making appearances from the bench – it’s clear to see why Dean Smith rates six-foot-two Davis – and that’s through the way that he has bullied Premier League defenders. Just take a look at the Carabao Cup Final, in which Keinan came onto the Wembley Stadium pitch for the final fifteen or so minutes – with the recently fit-again former England youth international chosen on the bench over January arrival Borja Baston.
He arrived with bullish gusto as he backed into Manchester City’s defence and created problems for them as Aston Villa looked for an equaliser, forcing himself onto John Stones and Oleksandr Zinchenko, amongst others, before turning and playing the ball to a team-mate. Davis did the same against Leicester City too, in the cup’s Semi-Final, and could have picked up an assist if eventual goalscorer Trezeguet had buried the forward’s through ball.
Keinan’s imposing strength is what sets him apart from the other striking options at Aston Villa. With Wesley brought in to offer a similar style of play, the Brazilian struggled with holding the ball up at times in a faster pace of football, allowing Keinan to showcase his ability through a number of substitute appearances earlier in the season.
He did exactly that against Brighton & Hove Albion on October 19th, when he challenged for a ball in the box as the clock edged closer to a 94th minute conclusion, before reacting the quickest and using his frame to shield the ball, before bursting forward and forcing Ryan, the Brighton ‘keeper, into a strong save.
Across 534 minutes of football in all competitions this season, Davis has registered an 86% passing accuracy and 19 successful dribbles.
According to smarterscout metrics, when compared to Mbwana Ally Samatta in the Premier League, Keinan Davis is stronger in ball retention – shielding and continuing possession – with a score of 90 compared to Samatta’s 81. He is also stronger in ground duels whilst already having possession, coming away with the ball almost twice as often as Samatta.
Samatta is stronger in the air in both duels and attacking the ball, his link-up play is stronger, according to smarterscout, as well as his ball recovery – but Keinan offers more via dribbling, disrupting play and receiving the ball in the box according to the numbers.
Keinan is likely to remain the ‘brute’ substitute, a battering ram to hammer against waning opposition defences after Samatta has softened their armour or anchor for Aston Villa to stick the ball to when under pressure in their own half.
This is exactly what Aston Villa need in these concluding games, should Keinan Davis remain fit for the final eleven Premier League fixtures that come the way of Dean Smith’s men. With Samatta not entirely fit and struggling to finish a full 90, and Borja Baston’s main offerings being disruption in the opposition half – Davis’s attributes lend themselves well to what the claret and blue are looking to achieve – be that a late winner or equaliser, or a goal to put a game to bed.
Hopefully, the 22-year-old can remain fit.