There have been numerous points in time throughout recent history where Aston Villa’s full-back ‘problem’ has been ‘solved’. It was ‘solved’ when Micah Richards was signed by the club, before he was converted into a centre-back. It was ‘solved ‘when the club signed Joe Bennett and Matt Lowton before chucking the pair to the wolves. It was ‘solved’ when Jordan Amavi was brought in, before he was sold. It was ‘solved’ when Aly Cissokho was desperately recalled to the club by a Villa in turmoil. It was ‘solved’ when the club purchased James Bree.
Bree came to the club in the Janaury of 2017 under much hype. Since his signing though - Bree hasn’t played much - at all - for the Villa.
Why is that? Bree hasn’t played horrendously when called upon, but he’s barely scraped 14 league appearances for Villa since he signed. When Villa have been so-so at full-back since his signing, why is James Bree not being called upon?
Could he be too young? Certainly, though I’m not sure that’s a strong argument against him. If Bree is a 7/10 with the occasional clanger - surely that’s better than 5 or 6/10 with the occasional clanger?
There’s no guarantee that Bree will step up and perform better than the current full-back selection at Villa right now, but there’s nothing to lose from placing him into rotation - which will be key as Villa hit a tough patch of games. What’s more, Bree can only get better if he plays first-team football, and if Villa cannot give him that, he cannot give them his potential. A loan move must beckon.
One thing to remember though. It’s not even that Villa really have a full-back problem right now. That department is simply the weakest, thanks to a costly war of attrition that has seen nearly every single area of the team improved despite it. Alan Hutton and Neil Taylor are fairly serviceable at right-back and left-back respectively. They are capable of costly errors, but that’s true of most players in the Championship. It’d have helped if the club could have sealed the signing of Joe Bryan in the summer, but that is water under the bridge at this point, and I am sure he’ll come good for Fulham eventually. Villa will want to look at reinforcements and improvements to the right-back and left-back positions in January, though, simply because it could do with a bit of a revamp, and Villa are probably an injury away from catastrophe if Taylor were to go down.
Bree? He’s a right-back, but he’s played on the left for Villa and is seemingly adept at centre-back. With Villa’s weakness across the back-four, there’s a big case building for him. Whether he can step up and deliver when called upon? That’s up to him, but surely - the chance is there.