Matty Cash had a strong debut under the lights at Villa Park on Monday.
Words: Harry Trend | @HazaTrend
Emiliano Martinez was the standout performer for Villa in their 1-0 win over Sheffield United last night with a penalty save in addition to a commanding performance.
But in terms of outfield players, you could tell Villa were still gelling together with a raft of new signings getting to know Dean Smith’s system.
However, there certainly were positive signs from the new boys, and Matt Cash’s performance in particular was a promising one.
Signed from Nottingham Forest for a reported £16m earlier this month, Cash’s first touch in the Premier League was a statement of intent; the 23-year-old advancing down that right flank with a forceful shove of the ball before whipping a ball into John McGinn which the Scot blasted over.
Cash meets the requirements of a modern-day full-back. He is quick, a good crosser of the ball and possesses experience of playing in several positions. Nevertheless, Frederic Guilbert, who has seemingly fallen out of favour with the Villa starting XI, is a similar player to Cash on the face of it.
Many point to Guilbert’s defensive shortcomings as the reason to why he finds himself out of the side. In Villa’s 4-0 defeat to Leicester before lockdown, the Frenchman’s positional play was all over the place. Guilbert is often a player seen to make a sliding tackle, but as the saying goes, “if you have to make a tackle then you’ve made a mistake.”
Admittedly, Cash’s defensive ability wasn’t fully tested against a ten-man Sheffield United side who were seemingly happy to hold out for a point until Ezri Konsa’s 63rd-minute opener.
But while Cash’s defensive actions were few and far between, when the former Forest full-back did have to protect the Villa goal, he did so. On the night, Cash led the Villa stats in terms of shots blocked and interceptions. A particularly satisfying example of the latter came when Cash showed great positional awareness to cut out Enda Stevens’ slide-rule pass.
As a man who is no stranger to playing on the wing, Cash added to his portfolio of teasing deliveries when his swinging ball from the right was headed over by Ollie Watkins. Soon after, Cash put real pace on a cross which was cleared by Blades defender Ethan Ampadu before Watkins could get on the end of it.
When the likes of Wesley and Keinan Davis are not on the pitch, Villa need a bit of speed on their deliveries and Cash is the man to provide that.
Moreover, Cash looked confident in his first league game in a Villa shirt, and the fact that the 23-year-old made 84 touches, the second most of any Villa player on the night, illustrates this. On the other hand, being a bit more vocal is something Tyrone Mings reminded the Wexham born man to improve upon in the future.
It goes without saying that Villa will have tougher tests defensively as Cash begins to make himself more familiar with the rest of the back four. But off the back of that performance, Cash gives Dean Smith little reason to drop him for next Monday’s trip to Fulham.