Unai Emery should consider benching winger after poor Brighton display

Unai Emery
Unai Emery / GLYN KIRK/GettyImages

Aston Villa's record signing Moussa Diaby has come under scrutiny following his lacklustre performance against Brighton, leaving manager Unai Emery with a tactical dilemma as the team prepares for the second leg of their UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final against Olympiacos.

In the 1-0 defeat to Brighton, Diaby's impact was minimal, taking just 17 touches and completing only seven of his 12 attempted passes. The 24-year-old French winger, who joined Villa for a hefty £52 million fee, managed only one shot on target and failed to create any chances, with no successful crosses or dribbles.

Defensively, he won none of his two ground duels and lost possession six times, earning a match rating of 5/10 from Birmingham Live journalist John Townley.

This poor display followed a similarly ineffective performance against Chelsea, where Diaby was substituted on for the injured Youri Tielemans before being taken off himself just ten minutes later.

However, sandwiched between these two Premier League matches was an impressive showing in the first leg against Olympiacos, where Diaby registered a goal and an assist.

Despite the recent setbacks, Villa remains in a strong position to secure a Champions League spot, sitting seven points clear of Tottenham Hotspur, albeit with Spurs having a game in hand.

As the team prepares for the second leg against Olympiacos, Emery must decide whether to start Diaby or use him as a potential impact substitute.

A mixed season for Moussa Diaby

Moussa Diaby
Moussa Diaby / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

Diaby's overall statistics this season paint a mixed picture. He has scored ten goals and provided eight assists across all competitions, ranking fourth among his teammates in the Premier League with 13 goal contributions.

However, consistency has been an issue for Diaby, with Emery occasionally using him as a substitute rather than a starter. Out of his 51 appearances for the club this term, the Frenchman has started only 33 matches.

Tactical decisions for Unai Emery

As Villa looks to overturn the 4-2 deficit from the first leg against Olympiacos, Emery's tactical decisions will be crucial. Starting Diaby on the bench could serve as a motivational tactic, potentially unleashing him against a tiring Greek defence later in the game.

Alternatively, trusting the winger from the start, in the hope that he rediscovers his impressive Bayer Leverkusen form, where he registered 49 goals and 48 assists in 172 matches, could be a gamble worth taking.

The upcoming match is not just about reaching the final; it's an opportunity for Villa to prove their mettle on the European stage and take a step closer to Champions League qualification. Diaby's performance, whether as a starter or a substitute, could be the difference-maker in this defining moment for the club.

With the pressure mounting and the stakes high, all eyes will be on Emery's team selection and Diaby's response to the recent criticism. The French winger's ability to shake off his poor form and deliver a match-winning performance could be the key to Villa's success in this crucial encounter.