Emery must ruthlessly ditch £35m Villa ace by unleashing “very strong” 6 ft 1 titan – opinion

Aston Villa head into the international break off the back of a disappointing 3-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League on Sunday.

How did Aston Villa lose to Liverpool?

The Villans were put to the sword by Jurgen Klopp’s side as their sloppy defending allowed the Merseyside hosts to win the game with relative ease.

Dominik Szoboszlai opened the scoring in just the third minute as a simple corner into the box was not cleared away from danger and no one came out to close down the Hungary international on the edge of the box, which allowed him to fire a strike into the far corner with his left foot.

The second goal came in the 22nd minute as Darwin Nunez evaded attention from Villa defenders within the box and his shot came crashing off the post and then into the back of the net off the unfortunate Matty Cash.

Mo Salah wrapped up the scoring in the second half as Unai Emery‘s side failed to react to a flick-on from Nunez from a corner and the Egypt international tapped in from close range.

How did Pau Torres perform against Liverpool?

One player who should be ditched from the starting line-up after the international break is central defender Pau Torres after a poor display at the heart of the defence, something that could open the door for Clement Lenglet to come in.

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Express & Star journalist Lewis Cox went as far as to describe his performance as a ‘nightmare’ due to his struggles throughout the game, handing him a rating of 4/10, which was the lowest of anyone in the team.

Torres’ play for the second goal was particularly disappointing as the Spain international was slow to react to a ball over the top to Salah and then appeared to jog back as Nunez ran ahead of him, which afforded the striker all the time in the world to pick his spot from six yards out.

His sloppy marking almost led to another goal for the hosts shortly after that as an in-swinging ball went over his head and to Joel Matip, whose effort went just wide of the far post.

He also only completed 72% of his attempted passes and recorded a Sofascore rating of 6.2 as he lost 50% of his aerial battles throughout the match.

The Spaniard has averaged a Sofascore rating of 6.63 across four Premier League games so far this season and won 57% of his duels in total, suggesting he has struggled to adapt to the rigours of English football. To make matters worse, Torres has also made 0.5 tackles and interceptions per outing for his side and has been dribbled past 0.8 times per match.

To put that into context, no other Villa defender has averaged fewer than one tackle and interception combined per game this term, which comes after no centre-back with at least five starts managed fewer than 1.8 per match during the 2022/23 campaign.

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None of his central defensive teammates have been dribbled past at all this season and these statistics illustrate how poor the 26-year-old dud has started life in Birmingham, as he has struggled to win possession back for his side and opposition players have found it too easy to go past him.

This means that it could be time for new signing Clement Lenglet, who recently arrived on loan from Barcelona, to come into the side on the left of the defence.

How good is Clement Lenglet?

The France international spent the 2022/23 campaign on loan with Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League and is, therefore, a proven performer at this level who could slot straight into the team alongside Diego Carlos, injury permitting, and Ezri Konsa.

As a left-footed defender, the 28-year-old is the perfect fit to replace Torres in order to provide balance in possession on that side of the pitch as he is comfortable playing the ball out from the back on his favoured left foot. Whereas, a right-footed centre-back who is not used to playing on the left may struggle to find the right angles to progress the play.

Last season, Lenglet played 26 top-flight games for Spurs and showed signs of promise with some of his work in and out of possession from defence.

The French titan made 2.2 tackles and interceptions per game and won 56% of his physical contests for the London club, whilst he was also dribbled past 0.7 times per clash.

No Aston Villa centre-back managed more than 1.9 tackles and interceptions per match last season in the Premier League, indicating that Lenglet could be an outstanding option for Emery in terms of his ability to win possession back by reading the game or making a vital challenge on a regular basis throughout games.

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These statistics also suggest that the former Tottenham defender has the potential to be a stronger defender than Torres, who was brought in from Villarreal for a reported fee of £35m this summer, due to his superior knack for cutting out opposition attacks.

The 6 foot 1 enforcer could also offer a similar level of quality when it comes to bringing the ball out from the back to progress the play for the team.

Over the last 365 days, Lenglet ranks within the top 6% of his positional peers among Europe’s top five leagues for progressive carries per 90 (1.59). Whereas, Torres ranks in the top 2% for progressive carries per 90 (2.11) during that period, with the majority of his minutes coming for Villarreal.

This shows that they are both among the best in their position when it comes to carrying the ball forward to gain yards on the opposition.

These numbers prove that Lenglet, who was hailed as “very strong” by compatriot and former Spurs teammate Hugo Lloris, would not be a significant downgrade on Torres in terms of what he offers in possession.

Therefore, Emery must ruthlessly ditch the Spaniard in order to start the loanee from Barcelona as he has the potential to provide more defensive steel whilst also being able to offer progression on the ball.