Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 23.
Steven Gerrard is a head coach who demands attacking adventure from his full-backs, so Digne's arrival at Villa Park should not be considered a surprise.
Aston Villa head coach Gerrard prefers a 4-3-2-1 or a 4-3-3 and in both set-ups his team hold a narrow shape, remaining strong down the middle.
This means the emphasis is on the full-backs to supply end product from the wide areas, and in this regard, Digne fits the bill as somebody proven at Premier League level.
His three-and-a-half-year spell at Everton was largely successful from an individual standpoint, with many Toffees fans disappointed to see the left-back sold to Villa earlier this month.
On his swift return to Goodison Park the hosts will respect Digne's ability to influence the contest.
|Player||Most open-play crosses||Most successful open-play crosses|
On his Villa debut in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United, Digne did not shy away from playing in an attack-minded manner.
He had two shots and three touches inside the opposition penalty area, and he delivered six crosses into the box. Two of those balls created goalscoring opportunities.
Highlights: Aston Villa 2-2 Man United. 💥— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) January 16, 2022
A thrilling fightback at Villa Park. 💪 pic.twitter.com/H38A6d1i1N
Currently just five teams produce fewer successful crosses than Villa, so it is an area that requires improvement.
In 1,260 minutes of action Digne is unusually yet to provide a goal or assist this season.
Across the last two Premier League campaigns he supplied 14 assists - seven in each - and prior to that in 2018/19 Digne had eight direct goal involvements (four goals, four assists).
The bulk of those key passes have been from left-wing crosses, with 64.7 per cent of them converted with headed goals (11/17).
While he is also a terrific exponent from dead-ball situations more than three-quarters of the France international’s assists stem from open play.
With Phillipe Coutinho or Watkins most likely to be play on front of Digne of the left of Villa’s attack, cutting inside as a matter of course, the January signing should enjoy plenty of freedom down that wing.
This means Digne will face a stern examination on his return to Everton, who will be managed by caretaker Duncan Ferguson this weekend.
Gordon, a tricky 20-year-old, scored twice in his last home appearance from a right-wing berth.
Fit-again Townsend is another option and he has been Everton’s chief creator, making 30 chances in 16 appearances during 2021/22.
Digne will be motivated to push on and make an impact inside the final third against his former club, but up against quality wide men he cannot afford to neglect his defensive duties.
The Frenchman could be a key figure for Villa at both ends of the pitch and his performance may have a significant bearing on the outcome of this encounter.