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New Player Review Feature – Ashley Young

With the new manager beginning to settle into his job at Villa Park and a traumatic pre-season behind us, exciting news on the Villa front is drying up. In order to get your opinions and hopefully your interest I will be bringing in some new features to the site as well as hoping to strike a deal with the club to get official press releases and images. While I wait upon that enquiry, here is a feature I will be running focusing in on the performances of certain individuals. In a week where he has made his first international starting XI I thought who better to start with then Ashley Young. Remember these are only opinions alongside my player ratings so let me know how you think Young has started the 2010/11 season!

Ashley Young will be looking to regain the form that saw him win the 2008/09 PFA Young Player of the Year award over teammate, Gabby Agbonlahor. Last season saw the star man overshadowed by a terrific campaign from James Milner and Young will be crucial in softening the blow of what was a massive loss for the club this summer. A decent start to the season saw him gain his first international start under Fabio Capello in England’s disappointing stalemate with Montenegro. Young was substituted 75 minutes into the tie but prior to that had shown real glimpses of quality. Along with opposite winger Adam Johnson, Ashley was one of the only England player’s who were looking to make something happen with a couple of decent runs at the opposition defence.

The main sour point of the night for Young, now 25, was a booking received for simulation, a facet to his game which Villa fans could well do without. After an excellent season 2 years ago, in which he made the PFA Team of the Year, diving has seemed to have crept into his game a little. Although the caution may have been a little harsh on Tuesday, we’ve seen penalties given for that sort of challenge; Ashley’s game would definitely improve if he stayed on his feet because 9 times out of 10 he can outfox his marker.

So far with Villa, Ashley is among a string of player’s to have appeared 7 times in claret and blue, netting on three occasions. A league goal against Bolton with a wicked free-kick giving MacDonald’ side the lead in the Scot’s last game at the helm, was followed by a brace in new manager, Gerard Houllier’s first game in charge. The League Cup tie with Blackburn represents his best turn out this season after linking up well with the comeback kid, Emile Heskey. Young has been deployed throughout the season as a support man to the striker and has had reasonable success in the role. The position is one that he is familiar with from his time at Watford and a tactic that O’Neill looked at once or twice without really taking to. Caretaker, Kevin MacDonald was clearly a fan of the system and Houllier has stuck with it thus far.

In my opinion Ashley Young is a winger. His delivery, particularly from set pieces in the 08/09 season was outstanding notching assist after assist for the likes of cult hero, Martin Laursen. This terrific ability appears to have left his game a touch at the start of this season with numerous inexplicably over hit free-kicks and corners. It will be vital to Villa’s success this term that Young recaptures his old form with the likes of Collins and Dunne ready to be hit in the box. Since Laursen’s outstanding season a few years back, the side have really looked to use his crossing ability as a weapon and it is a weapon that the manager will no doubt be looking to revive.

I feel that Young has developed an ego since being recognised on a national stage which has led to a few unwanted features to his play. Along with the simulation issues comes a tendency to whinge at referee’s and opponents alike, which is the main reason for bookings in Young’s case, 2 to his name thus far for Villa. Despite this I believe that his work rate has been decent this season in his new role and has certainly improved from the last campaign which is great to see. Ashley Young currently lies in 3rd place according to my player ratings this season behind the rejuvenated Nigel Reo-Coker and Emile Heskey. I think that he could well climb to the top of the pack if reinstated as a natural wide man. In this position he can really use his best attribute, running at, and wrong footing full backs for fun!

Overall an encouraging start, for undoubtedly one of our prize assets. A good international shift should boost his confidence as he looks to cement his place in the England first team. Do you agree with my assessment or am I off the mark in your opinion? What strengths would you like to see Young add to his resume and do you agree with my player ratings placing the London born attacker in the top 3 so far?

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