With his contract up in the summer of 2012, Villa’s ‘star man’ and England international Ashley Young is hotly tipped to leave the club after a disappointing season for the club under Gerard Houllier. The question is, is he really Villa’s star man and how sorely would he be missed were he to leave.
The likes of Manchester United and Liverpool are thought to be front-runners for the 25-year-old’s signature, with touted valuations ranging from underwhelming to the absurd. Though a fee of as low as £10m has been suggested, I would hope that if Ashley were to be sold, we would gain a significant profit on the fee spent over four years ago.
Anywhere between £15m-£20m is probably most likely, though Villa fans will be hoping reports touting a £25m valuation are more accurate! A move to Tottenham has also been touted, but the fact that Young is an Arsenal fan could hinder this, though a preference to return to his native London has been suggested.
Young has shot to the limelight on the international scene this season, however many Villa fans will be questioning whether the winger-cum-forward has really improved this term, especially from the form he showed when going on to win the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2007/08.
When he joined Villa, Young was predominantly thought of as a centre forward/striker, though O’Neill was quick to exploit his pace and trickery out on the wing. The 2007/08 season was undeniably one of the finest first full seasons at Villa for a new signing, in the club’s history. The 2007/08 campaign saw him sail to the aforementioned PFA gong having netted 8 league goals and picking up a fantastic 24 assists, (13 from open play, 11 from set pieces) topped only by Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas, during his 37 appearances.
With the departure of Milner, and Barry before that, Young has picked up the pressure of being Villa’s ‘prized asset’, which I believe has allowed the likes of Stewart Downing and Marc Albrighton to shine. Of the attacking trio, in my opinion, Young has been the least consistent though he continues to top the clubs goal contribution charts.
This term he has notched 8 goals in 34 games in all competitions for Villa, weighing in with a further 12 assists, however only 4 of which have come from set pieces, showing a decline in this area of his game.
In reaching 50 assists, Young became the 5th fastest player to do so in the Premier League (103 matches) behind Nani, Cantona, Arteta and fellow Villan Robert Pires.
In reaching the same landmark, Young became the 9th youngest player to do so at aged 23 years and 299 days.
With an assist rate per game in the Premier League of 0.46 he is 5th in the all time rankings behind only Beckham, Henry, Fabregas and Cantona.
Wherever Ashley Young ends up next season, he’s bound to be a key creative force for his team.