Friday, 11 February 2011

Time for Villa to play Ashley Young as a striker

Ashley Young's realising his potential as a senior player. His first international goal in Denmark and a burgeoning partnership with Darren Bent (for both Villa and England), point to a man rejuvenated and focused on his game.

After two wilderness years at Villa Park, frustrated by Martin O'Neill's complicated tactics and often played out of position, Young's being allowed to express himself, behind the front man as a striker.

Anyone who watched Villa in the last months of O'Neill's tenure would've seen a patient, but frustrated Ash forced to swap wings mid-game. The Irishman gesticulated and jumped around on the touchline kicking every ball, disrupting Ash's flow.

Now Young, who only played as a striker at Watford before winging it at Villa says, “I’m really enjoying playing in the middle. Playing just behind that main striker you can get yourself in the box more and have more shots.

“I did that and I got the rewards, scoring my first goal for England. I would be delighted to play there. As a kid I was a striker. Ian Wright was my idol. He was a proper striker.
 
WONDERFUL COPENHAGEN! Ash's quickfire finish for a 1st international goal in Denmark
‘‘I’ve loved every minute of playing in the hole. It gives me more freedom to go and get the ball and to join in more. Hopefully, I will continue to keep playing there.” Ash's migration from striker to wing is the pole opposite to the progression that took Thierry Henry from unrealised talent to world beater at Arsenal.

And Gerard Houllier should take a leaf out of his mate Arsene Wenger's book and unlock the potential in Young. The boy's a born striker.

And if Villa's latest boss did that, he'd unlock more than just Young's ability on the field.

I was fortunate enough to spend time with the Villa squad in Spain during the club's victorious Peace Cup campaign in 2009. I was struck by Young's infectious personality. When he loves his football, he's a really positive force around the squad.

A new manager at Villa, the arrival of Darren Bent at both club and international level, and a renewed opportunity to play high-profile games in the forward position he knows and loves.

Everything has come together to produce the perfect storm for Ash. Let's hope Houllier completes the circle by playing him "in the hole".