Aston Villa: The Curious Case of Leandro Bacuna


Leandro Bacuna is one of the more tenured players at Aston Villa, but even so, his mystique remains a fascinating story for the club four years on.

Leandro Bacuna, alongside Gabby Agbonlahor, Alan Hutton, and Ashley Westwood, represent the four most tenured players at Aston Villa by number of appearances. For all that match time, we know who the latter three are: a former blistering striker, a former serviceable right back, and an adequate central midfielder.

What we do not know, after 100 Aston Villa appearances is, what kind of player Leandro Bacuna is. To this day, I do not know if we will ever find out.

Is he a central midfielder? an outside midfielder? a right winger? right fullback? He even filled in at left back last season during which Aston Villa saw some decent Premier League results.

Bacuna’s debut season left Villa fans salivating at the Curaçao international’s future. After signing in the summer of 2013 from Eredivisie’s FC Groningen, Bacuna scored his first Premier League goal against Manchester City in September:

Despite featuring heavily at right back – a position he never player at in Holland – Bacuna thrived because of his innate crossing ability from the wing. Bacuna was able to get by at a foreign position because of his plus place and strength, which mitigated lapses in defensive technique.

Leandro Bacuna was an offensive weapon playing from the back as evidenced from his five league goals during the 2013-2014 season.

What followed, however, was disappointment. The following league season saw Bacuna’s minutes drop from 2595 in 2013-2014 to 981 in 2014-2015. Experimentation under Paul Lambert meant Bacuna began playing a lot on the right wing, the position he began his career at. He only started one Premier League match the entire season.

His versatility became a blessing, ownership saw Bacuna fit to receive a long-term extension on August 20th, 2015. But at the same time, it has continued to haunt his development.

Bacuna, still only 25(!), has not had a single position to call his home. In the last twelve months, Bacuna has played no less than five positions on the pitch. If there was ever a need for an emergency fifth center back, I have no doubt Steve Bruce calls for either Mile Jedinak or Leandro to fill the gap.

Where does he go from here? Most recently Bacuna is featuring on the left of a central midfield three. I’m not so sure this is his best place, however; Bacuna’s four year pass success rate is 74.8%. Ideally, a central midfielder hovers above a 79% rate. Perhaps Steve Bruce is placing him here due to a lack of other options in the middle of the park, or to cover Jedinak with Bacuna’s strong legs.

Should he go back to the right wing/right midfield? I’m not so sure of that either. Bacuna only contributed seven assists in 101 league matches showing that, while his crossing looked beautiful, it was hardly effective in-match.

Next: Gabby is holding Villa back

If there is one position in most need of strengthening for Aston Villa, it is right fullback. A position where Alan Hutton continues to struggle.

Perhaps it is time for Steve Bruce to pull a page out of Paul Lambert’s textbook and reunite Leandro Bacuna with a position that used to be oh so foreign to him.