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Talking Tactics

Tenacious Hickey can subdue in-form Martinelli

Adrian Clarke 16 Sep 2022

Adrian Clarke says Brentford right-back will relish his duel with Arsenal's Brazilian star on Sunday

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 8.

Aaron Hickey (BRE)

Brentford right-back Hickey is playing well enough to approach his upcoming duel against in-form Gabriel Martinelli with relish.  

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The 19-year-old  Arsenal wide man has started 2022/23 superbly, scoring three times already and laying on 14 key passes from the left wing.

His direct opponent in west London this Sunday will be Scotland international Hickey, who joined the Bees from Bologna this summer.

The 20-year-old has been an ever-present for Thomas Frank’s side, impressing with his solid all-round play.  

Versatile and reliable 

Hickey is a talented footballer, who has successfully occupied several different roles for club and country.  

His most natural position is left-back, but Rico Henry has consistently shone there for Brentford under Frank.  

With his ability to pass, shoot and cross equally well with either foot, Hickey has instead been deployed at right-back.  

Across the last two matches he faced stiff tests against an on-song Wilfried Zaha and Jack Harrison, but he handled each of those challenges well.  

In the 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace Hickey drew praise for a sterling performance in which he won an impressive six tackles, while also making two crucial blocks from shots inside Brentford’s box.   

Hickey made a name for himself in Serie A as a swashbuckling full-back, scoring five league goals for the Rossoblu in 2021/22.  

His comfort on the ball also meant he was sometimes used as a defensive midfield player for the side from Emilia Romagna.  

At Brentford he has produced a string of disciplined displays, with occasional flashes of excitement down the flank.  

First and foremost, Hickey is a determined tackler, winning more challenges than any team-mate this season.  

Top Brentford tacklers 2022/23
Player Tackles
Aaron Hickey 10
Mathias Jensen 7
Vitaly Janelt 5

When it is possible to do so he will get tight to Martinelli and show aggression.  

He is also comfortable at dealing with 1v1s, but the rapid Brazilian will certainly ask questions of him in those situations.  

While he can play a more adventurous full-back role, Hickey has rarely entered the final third in recent weeks.  

To balance the team out he often stays back while Henry flies forward down the opposite side.  

When opportunities do arise for Hickey to get forward, he has proven to be an adept dribbler, attempting a team-high 14 take-ons across the first six matches.  

Only three top-flight full-backs have completed more successful dribbles than Brentford’s summer signing.  

Dribbling stats 2022/23
Dribbles attempted Dribbles completed
Riyan Ait-Nouri 22 Kyle Walker-Peters 14
Joao Cancelo 18 Riyan Ait-Nouri 9
Jonny 15 Joao Cancelo 9
Kyle Walker-Peters 15 Aaron Hickey 7
Aaron Hickey 14 Jonny 7

Hickey’s duel with Martinelli will be fascinating.  

The gifted Gunners starlet will try to catch him off guard with penetrating runs in behind, and on the ball he will try to take on the Scot when gets the chance.  

With just a handful of Premier League starts to his name it feels like a daunting proposition, but the cool-headed Hickey is unlikely to be fazed.  

The defender's skill set and temperament provide him with plenty of self-belief.  

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