With new manager Tim Sherwood watching on, Aston Villa midfielder Leandro Bacuna showed in the weekend’s 2-1 FA Cup win over Leicester just what he could offer the side over the final few months of the season.
Bacuna, 23, arrived at Villa from FC Gronigen in June 2013 for around £3 million, before going on to record five goals in 38 total appearances during his debut campaign in England.
Earning impressive reviews despite spending most of his time out of positon at right-back, this season has seen the versatile Dutchman struggle to earn first-team action, however, with the since-departed Paul Lambert restricting him to just seven Premier League outings for a total of 184 minutes.
Nevertheless, with caretaker boss Scott Marshall handing him the start for the fifth-round visit of the Foxes, Bacuna proceeded to prove that he can in fact be a difference-maker, opening the scoring in the 68th-minute with a brilliant curling strike.
Full of running and determination, the former Netherlands Under-21 international also delivered a match-leading nine crosses during his 76 minutes on the pitch, while also creating three chances for his teammates, according to Who Scored.
|Total Shots||Shots On Target||Key Passes||Total Passes||Passing Accuracy||Total Crosses||Accurate Crosses||Total Tackles||Won Tackles||Touches||Dispossessed||Mins Played|
Part of Bacuna's problem at Villa up to this point is that no one seems to be sure what his best position is, having filled in all over the midfield, as well as at full-back, but he appeared more than at home on the right wing against Leicester, providing the misfiring Christian Benteke with some much-needed service.
The club have struggled to get much production out of wide areas over the past few months, contributing to their recent 11-hour top-flight goal drought, but the ex-Eredivisie star looks like he could be one obvious solution to the problem.
In fact, despite his lack of senior action so far this season, Bacuna has shown the creative qualities fans hoped to see from him at the start of the campaign, leading the team in minutes per key pass with one every 35.6 minutes - more than even playmakers Joe Cole and Carles Gil.
|Position||Team||Total Key Passes||Total Key Passes MINS||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Leandro Bacuna||MF||Aston Villa||5||35.6||7||178|
|Joe Cole||MF||Aston Villa||5||45||8||225|
|Carles Gil||MF||Aston Villa||6||50.17||4||301|
|Jack Grealish||MF||Aston Villa||4||52.5||9||210|
|Ashley Westwood||MF||Aston Villa||28||54.89||19||1,537|
|Fabian Delph||MF||Aston Villa||17||74.35||15||1,264|
With Villa dropping into the relegation amid a dismal run of two wins in 21 league games, it's clear that the incoming Sherwood needs to make changes for the final 13 fixtures in order to keep the club up, and a bigger role for Bacuna might just be at the top of the agenda.
It would be a major indictment on Lambert were he to go on to prove a core contributor towards the team's top-flight survival, but one shouldn't bet against it given what he has shown when handed a chance to impress in the past.