Aston Villa’s Leandro Bacuna has earned rave reviews in recent weeks for his attacking output from right-back and he believes he has centre-back pairing Ciaran Clark and Jores Okore to thank for that.
Bacuna, 23, deputised for the suspended Alan Hutton in the wins over West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland, picking up two assists against the latter to give manager Tim Sherwood a selection dilemma ahead of his positional revival’s return for last weekend’s visit of Swansea.
Injuries saw Hutton take up a less familiar position at left-back in the end, with Bacuna continuing in the Scot’s favoured position, where he once again impressed going forward, despite a narrow 1-0 defeat.
A natural midfielder, it’s no surprise that the versatile Dutchman feels most comfortable bombing down the flank and, speaking to the club’s official website, he’s thanked both Clark and Okore for allowing him to fill such a role with their disciplined defence.
"I'm pleased to come in at right-back and give a good performance,” he said. "If I go forward I know someone else, like those two guys will cover for me and that's good.
"If you have license to go forward and attack as a right-back it's good. There are different ways of playing the position. I like to go forward and score goals so those guys are invaluable."
Clark and Okore in fact started out the season as Villa’s fourth and fifth-choice centre-backs behind Ron Vlaar, Philippe Senderos and Nathan Baker, but injuries to all three have since allowed the pair to strike up a superb rapport in the heart of defence.
Both have been among the club’s standout performers in recent months, even making the soon-to-be out-of-contract Vlaar somewhat expendable, and Bacuna thinks their partnership could now be in place for the long-term.
"They've done really well and they're both still young,” he added. "To come in and play with them from my perspective has really helped.
"Ron is injured but they're filling in and they're two very good players who lead.”