Why Douglas Luiz Will Be Aston Villa’s Key Man

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Douglas Luiz had a mixed season for Aston Villa last year, but he has become a firm fan-favourite since his heroic performances during Project Restart. Arguably Villa’s best player, he marshalled and settled the midfield in his role shielding the back four. He was also instrumental in plugging the gaps in Villa’s leaky defence.

Much is made of the impact Jack Grealish had on Aston Villa’s season last year. His club’s highest scorer, talisman and captain, it’s true that Grealish did at times drag Villa to victory. As Villa’s second term in the top flight approaches, however, it may not be Grealish who becomes the heart of this team.

Douglas Luiz Can Be Aston Villa’s Key Man

Luiz’s Defensive Duties

Prior to Lockdown, Villa were expected to concede on average 2.2 goals per game. When football resumed, they were able to reduce their expected goals against per game to 0.77. That is an astonishing decrease and the reason that Villa were able to remain in the Premier League for another year, despite their precarious position in the relegation zone during Lockdown.

Examining Luiz’s stats reveal just how instrumental he was to Villa over the season. According to the Premier League’s official website, he recovered the ball 205 times, 50 more than midfield teammate Marvelous Nakamba and fan-favourite John McGinn. He also made 47 clearances, 15 more than Nakamba, and blocked 16 shots,  the most of any member of Villa’s midfield players.

The Link with Attack 

It’s not just his defensive attributes that make him vital to Villa’s chances of survival next season. His stats also reveal that he was the engine room for much of Villa’s work going forward. After Project Restart, Villa sat deep, allowing teams to come onto them before breaking on the counter-attack. This wouldn’t have been possible without Luiz, who completed 92 accurate long balls. In midfield, Nakamba completed 24, Conor Hourihane 18 and McGinn 82. Only defender Tyrone Mings made more (117). Luiz adapted to the new style Head Coach Dean Smith proposed and was instrumental in releasing Villa’s attacking players.

He also registered 1,208 passes, 500 more than any other midfield teammate. Luiz is the key link between Villa’s defence and attack, providing not only defensive cover but the impetus for attack. At 22 he is also only going to get better, with a year’s Premier League experience under his belt we will see a very different Douglas Luiz this year. 

Following the signings of Matty Cash and Ollie Watkins, Villa are likely to delve into the transfer market again before long. But they may well already have their key man training at Bodymoor Heath in the form of midfielder Douglas Luiz.

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