Scouting Aston Villa's Antonia Luna: Does He Deserve a Starting Place?

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Scouting Aston Villa's Antonia Luna: Does He Deserve a Starting Place?
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Antonio Luna has played all three of Aston Villa's Premier League fixtures this season since his move from Sevilla back in June, but with other defensive options now available, we take a look at whether the Spanish full-back deserves his spot in the starting lineup.

Last season's left-back, Joe Bennett, missed the start of the campaign through injury, which forced Villa boss Paul Lambert's hand into selecting Luna in defence.

22-year-old Luna made his league debut in Villa's 3-1 win over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium and capped off a solid defensive display by scoring his side's third goal.

With former Middlesbrough man Bennett still sidelined, the Spaniard kept his place in the side for the fixtures against Chelsea and Liverpool, and although he was unfortunate to score an own goal in the match against the Blues, Luna performed well alongside his new team-mates.

However, Luna's injury on the eve of Aston Villa's League Cup match against Rotherham coincided with the return of Bennett, with the 23-year-old putting in a good shift as he looked to regain his position in Villa's back line.

With both players back to full fitness, Lambert will now have a tough decision to make as to who will start against Newcastle this weekend.

In an interview with Aston Villa website editor Paul Brown, Luna said that he is relishing the competition with Bennett in their fight for the left-back berth:

Having more than one player for each role in the team is normal, especially at a big club like Villa.

Joe and I are both in the same position. We're both left full-backs.

We are both competing to get in the team. We are enjoying the competition.

It's good for everyone. It's good for the team certainly. Competition is so important.

It brings the best out in everyone. It will bring the best out of me. It will bring the best out of Joe.

It's always good. If I am doing well in training and Joe is too, the manager will be very happy. It is a decision he will enjoy making at the end of the week.

So with Villa's next fixture drawing ever closer and two players vying for one spot, we take a look at the statistics to see if the Spaniard's run of league games should continue.

For many newcomers, adjusting to the Premier League can be something of a challenge, but Luna seems to have had no trouble with the transition from playing in Spain's top flight.

The Spaniard's statistics make for good reading if you're a Villa fan, and probably less so if you're Joe Bennett.

So far in his three Premier League appearances, Luna has scored one goal and created two goalscoring opportunities for his side. Unsurprisingly as a left-back, shots don't come around too often, so his shot accuracy stands at 100 percent.

Luna's simplicity at the back is demonstrated in his passing ability. The defender, in typical Spanish style, likes to move the ball in short, sharp motions as he moves further forward. An average pass success rate of 87 percent indicates that he can often help his side get out of trouble at the back and seamlessly move the ball forward in an attempt to turn defence into attack.

The youngster also impresses with his defensive capability, and despite his relatively small frame—standing at just 5'10”—he does not shy away from a tackle. In the three games that he has played this season, Luna has won an average of 63 percent of his duels with opponents.

Antonio Luna Premier League 2013/14 Statistics
Total Appearances Total Goals Scored Avg. Shot Accuracy Total Chances Created
3 1 100% 2
Avg. Pass Accuracy Avg. Duels Won Avg. Defensive Actions Total Defensive Errors
87% 63% 6 0

Sure to be knocking on the manager's door is Bennett, who, like Luna, also fares well in the Premier League.

Though he's failed to make an appearance this campaign, Bennett featured 25 times for Villa in the league last season. In those appearances Bennett failed to find the net on a single occasion, though scoring goals is obviously not an important feature of a defender's game. He did create 10 goalscoring opportunities in those 25 appearances, however.

The 23-year-old consistently performed well with his passing as he averaged a success rate of 84 percent during the course of the season.

And in similar fashion to that of his left-back rival, Bennett's success in duels with opponents stood at 60 percent.

Joe Bennett Premier League 2012/13 Statistics
Total Appearances Total Goals Scored Avg. Shot Accuracy Total Chances Created
25 0 25% 10
Avg. Pass Accuracy Avg. Duels Won Avg. Defensive Actions Total Defensive Errors
84% 60% 7 3

Bennett was one of the standout players during Villa's quite atrocious 2012/13 campaign, and any Villa fan would be more than happy to see the Rochdale-born defender turning out for Villa on Saturday. If I were Aston Villa manager, though, the left-back jersey would be going to Luna.

Though younger in years, with La Liga experience under his belt, Luna is a more accomplished and experienced full-back at present and offers Villa something different down that left flank.

A tough fixture against Newcastle will see the defenders come up against the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cisse and Moussa Sissoko, and with Villa looking to claim three points in front of their home fans, an experienced head while being dangerous when going forward is of high importance.

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