Brad Guzan has won plenty of admirers over the last year for marshalling Aston Villa’s inexperienced backline, but Paul Lambert should keep young defender Matthew Lowton in bubble wrap between games if the Scottish manager wants to land odds of 13/10 that his side make the Premier League top ten this season.
Where he fits in
The 6ft 1in Derbyshire native came through the youth ranks at Leeds and Sheffield United as a centre-half before converting to the right-back role he now fills at Villa Park.
After 78 league appearances for the Blades, Lambert made Lowton his second signing after taking over at Villa and the 22-year-old led by example in his first season in the top-flight, starting every league game apart from their last home match of the campaign – a 2-1 loss to Chelsea.
Indeed, the only other Villa game Lowton did not feature in was the 2-1 win over Ipswich in the FA Cup and this dependability earned him a new contract at the end of the campaign, which ties him to the club until 2017.
What he offers
Lowton proved himself to be invaluable in both defence and attack in 2012/13, making more tackles per game than any of his team mates and creating twice as many goalscoring opportunities (21) as next-best defensive distributor Joe Bennett (10).
Three of those chances were converted into goals and Lowton popped up with a couple of net-bulgers of his own, opening the scoring in the 2-0 win over Swansea in September and ensuring his side re-took the lead in the 3-1 win against Stoke at the Britannia in April – a game Villa had to take three points from to give themselves a fighting chance of staying up.
Only one Premier League player – Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin – made more interceptions than the right-back last term and Villa will need his tenacity when Man City visit the Midlands at the weekend, with the 2011/12 champions 9/20 to leave with all three points.
Lowton was part of a Villa rearguard that kept City honest in the corresponding fixture last season, when Carlos Tevez’s goal just after half-time separated the sides and the Villa Park faithful will be hoping their all-action full-back can get at Manuel Pellegrini’s ever-changing defence, as well as dealing with the likes of Samir Nasri at the other end.