Matt Targett is a more than capable left-back, but issues in his game need to be ironed out to avoid him becoming, well, a target.
Words: Andy Bates | @k2_villa
As we approach the final few days of the transfer window, one position that seems well covered for Aston Villa currently is left back. Matty Targett, an expensive signing from Southampton 12 months ago, along with the ever dependable Neil Taylor, have not provided too many headaches for Dean Smith so far.
The former of course is the main hope going forward, with Villa putting a lot of faith in the young Englishman, who developed a strong reputation during a loan spell at Fulham, as part of the team who broke Villa hearts in the 2017-18 Play-Off Final.
Targett had a baptism of fire in his first season in the Villa defence, which was far from stable and whilst his attacking play seemed assured, some of his defensive work was highlighted as needing work. Of course it would be hardly appropriate to pin too much blame on Targett, given the lack of cohesion amongst the backline generally, especially pre lockdown.
However, it wont have escaped Smith and co’s notice that Targett can often lack some intensity and strength in fulfilling his defensive duties. This was also a criticism from some Southampton supporters, when Targett completed his move to B6, that he might struggle with the rigours of Premier League defending, particularly in a side, who as it turned out, would struggle hugely in that area.
There is no denying Targett’s prowess at the other end of the field though. He loves to link up down the left, with Grealish and Hourihane in particular. He does provide a genuine threat from his crossing into the box also, often getting into great areas to deliver, taking advantage of the space that Grealish provides. He also weighed in with two hugely important goals last season, with a last minute finish to seal 3 points at home to Brighton. Then there was a lovely finish in the EFL Cup Semi-Final Second Leg, to set up a memorable win that took Villa to the Wembley Final.
There is little doubt that Matty Targett is a very capable left back at this level and certainly has the game to play how Smith would want his left back to play, pushing on and getting involved with the creative side of the team. Also it is fair to say that any small defensive issues can be ironed out with good coaching and he certainly has the right manager and backroom team to help him with this.
Targett’s main issue is that Aston Villa is not a club where a player can coast any longer. In the past a move to Villa Park was a decent pay day, with limited expectation, or a shop window for a bigger move. Now it is none of those things. There is a new ruthlessness within the upper ranks at the club and whilst players will be given every opportunity to succeed, the pressure to continue an upward trajectory means that carrying individuals will not be an option. In Targett’s case, the time and patience to kick on and become the left back he can be and the one that Smith will require, will surely ebb away.
A secondary issue could be a player who Dean Smith knows well, in the shape of Rico Henry. Smith brought Henry through at Walsall before signing him again for Brentford and he has always been highly rated within the game, although injuries have stunted his progress somewhat. The links to Henry resurfaced again recently and although it is unlikely to happen in this window, the pressure may be on Targett now to convince Smith that reinforcements are not needed in that area, before the January transfer window.
Either way, it would seem natural that Rico Henry will become a Premier League player in the not to distant future and it’s logical that Smith would like Villa to be part of that conversation.