The defender could be the key to making the European dream a reality at Villa Park.
Aston Villa are one of the few teams in the Premier League with something huge to play for on the final day as the opportunity to play European football next season hangs in the balance.
The Villans will host Brighton and Hove Albion at Villa Park this afternoon as the chase for the Europa Conference League spot in seventh remains tight between themselves, Tottenham Hotspur and Brentford ace.
To beat Brentford and Spurs to the final spot in European football it will be as simple as taking all three points from their final fixture and will have the advantage of being in front of their home support over their north London competitors who will travel to Elland Road, whilst the Bees will take on the Premier League champions Manchester City in their final fixture later today.
In terms of injuries, Philippe Coutinho and Jed Steer remain unavailable for selection, but the biggest blow for Emery has been Alex Moreno’s hamstring injury that has needed surgery to repair, with the Villa boss confirming in his pre-match press conference this week that the talented left-back will now be out for the foreseeable future:
We will be without Alex Moreno. He had surgery last week on his hamstring. We are going to follow it; he’s going to be out for two to three months, perhaps back early August, OK, so it’s two or three months.”
As a result, it could be the perfect opportunity to unleash Ashley Young in the starting eleven this afternoon, as the Villa ace could be the perfect player to not only replace Moreno but also provide the passion needed to secure European football for the club.
Will Ashley Young start vs Brighton?
The 37-year-old defender has been a consistent and reliable player over the current Premier League campaign and has stepped up in the moments when he has been needed the most, with his display against Liverpool last weekend a testament to the important role he plays in the squad.
Over his 37-minute performance at Anfield, Young helped Villa stay in the game to ultimately earn a deserved point – making three clearances and winning 100% of his aerial duels, whilst also completing three interceptions and two tackles during his short stint on the pitch.
The £50k-per-week gem – hailed “outstanding” by former boss Steven Gerrard – has been solid defensively throughout his 29 league outings with eight of the club’s 12 clean sheets being tallied up when Young has featured in the tea
Not only that, the former England international has been the second-highest rated defender in the squad for tackles completed (1.7) – as per WhoScored – with only Matty Cash completing more per appearance and positional competitor Lucas Digne tallying much fewer (1.1), which is a testament to Young’s dominance in the back four.
With that being said, whilst Young is more commonly found in the right-back position it would be a no-brainer to start him on the left side where he has comfortably made five appearances and has scored one goal from this season so far, as he could be the key to making Villa’s dreams of European football a reality at last.