Ezri Konsa has impressed for Aston Villa this season in the Premier League alongside Tyrone Mings. After barely surviving relegation last season, led by Jack Grealish Villa now sit in 8th and are in the race for European football. They had excellent recruitment in summer, holding onto their key players and improving their side. This summer, rival clubs will be looking at several of their players. Ezri Konsa will be one of them, he’s already attracting interest and has recently linked with Tottenham Hotspur. This article is going to analyse Konsa as a player and will be from a slight Spurs perspective and how he’d suit Jose’s side.
I’m going to start with my conclusion and overall thoughts on Konsa and then if you’re interested in my reasoning and some detail then you can continue to read. Here you can see my overall ratings on Konsa’s attributes in line with the FA’s Four Corners. This is relative to Premier League centre backs, so yellow means average for a Premier League defender, light green is above average, dark green means very good.
Konsa is a very focused player whose role is solely defensive. I wouldn’t describe him as loving defending, but he knows that’s his role and carries it out really well. He’s an intelligent defender with good composed assertiveness. He has good positioning, makes good decisions and is a strong box defender who is decent in the air and excellent at blocking shots. Although he is also capable of defending higher up, he is less active and doesn’t tend to fire out of the line and is good at covering depth.
He isn’t great in possession and he doesn’t play an active role in this aspect of the game. He’s comfortable technically and is calm under pressure. So, while he’s not going to make many glaring errors, he doesn’t play a big part in progressing the ball and doesn’t really want to receive the ball. Mings’ role is to be the main player in buildup, therefore at Spurs you’d imagine that a similar setup would occur with Rodon or Alderweireld taking the role of the main player in possession and Konsa being a bit of a passenger in this aspect.
At 23, Konsa has nearly 4000 Premier League minutes as well as 3,700 in the Championship. He’s a mature, intelligent defender who you can trust. I think that Villa are on a really good progression path and will want to keep hold of him for as long as possible. However, I can see why he’s gaining the interest of other clubs.
From a Spurs perspective; he’s a homegrown, physical and accomplished defender who I think could partner Rodon in the long term. I think playing in a back three would suit him also as you could have two taller, ball-playing centre backs alongside him if you wanted more possession and he’s very capable of defending wide so can cover behind wing backs well.
However, my main concern is that although he is excellent at ground duels and defending, he is a lot weaker in the air and this has been an issue for Spurs so doesn’t fix our need for an aerially dominant defender. If we were playing a higher line, he’d be more suited to us than currently where he wouldn’t fix our issues as much and could still get caught out aerially and on set pieces. So while he’d be an upgrade on Dier defensively, I don’t think he’s the perfect profile for us.
Aston Villa average 49.9% possession, this varies quite a bit by opposition. They buildup quickly and aren’t afraid of playing directly as they want to get the ball to the front four as quickly as possible. Konsa plays a very small role in possession, he attempts 32.7 passes per 90 compared to Tyrone Mings’ 45.2. Mings takes the main role in the buildup phase.
Konsa is comfortable on the ball though and isn’t a liability, he has solid technical ability but his ball progression is poor. If he does make an error to lose the ball, he does well to recover and prevent it leading to a chance or goal. He doesn’t look as if he wants the ball and doesn’t want to play an active role in buildup. He plays simple passes to the other centre back or the goalkeeper, occasionally into his full back or the defensive midfielder who has dropped really close.
Above, you can see his passing statistics from Fbref. He’s in the 3rd percentile for passes attempted, 2nd for passes to the final third, 1st for distance progressed and progressive passes. So it doesn’t make for good reading. His technique is okay on his short, simple passes, they are slightly underhit though. He’s capable with both feet and deals with pressure calmly but doesn’t pass forwards and doesn’t enjoy the buildup side of the game at all.
He also doesn’t look to carry the ball either and can be very static in possession, wanting to make a simple pass as soon as possible. He’s 3rd percentile for progressive carrying distance, this is something I really like centre backs to be able to do but isn’t a huge issue.
Therefore, he’s not suited to a really high possession side like Manchester City as his lack of ball-playing ability would be obvious. He would be very suited to a team who has a decent amount of possession but their football isn’t based around possession and patient or intricate buildup.
Out of Possession
This is where Konsa does excel. He isn’t a really active defender, or what I call a ‘showcase defender’ with big tackles and defensive actions. This means that if you just watch Villa as a neutral fan, he can largely go unnoticed, no big mistakes but not much to make you remember him. This isn’t a bad thing and I believe this is a fallacy for centre backs, but I’ll talk about that another time. But once you watch him closely, you can see his quality.
His stats are pretty low but basic defensive statistics don’t tell you much about a defender’s quality. Konsa has good defensive instincts, he has great awareness and positioning, and checks his shoulders regularly. He doesn’t ball-watch and will organise the defence in a mid/high line. In the box, he makes good decisions with his positioning, is great at blocking shots and isn’t afraid of challenges and putting his body on the line. While he isn’t that agile with his change of direction and explosiveness, he does have good footwork and lateral speed in defensive situations.
Konsa wins 59.8% of his aerial duels, which is okay but isn’t great, you’d expect top centre halves to be above 70%. Only standing at 6’0″, he is fairly short for a centre back and his leap isn’t great, not getting off the ground that much. He lacks aggression and isn’t dominant physically in the air. Although he has good awareness in the box but isn’t physical enough with his marking at times and can be troubled by big strikers. He is better in midfield when he is jumping from behind a static attacker but still not great. In the box, he is great at clearing crosses unopposed because of his great positioning but is fairly average in actual aerial duels which is a concern, especially for Spurs.
Konsa plays with Matty Cash as his right back. Cash tends to press out a lot into midfield, which means that Konsa has to cover behind and defend 1v1 in the wide area quite a lot. He got tight 1v1 and showed very good defensive footwork. He was patient and used his physicality well without fouling or overcommitting or relying on it. His body positioning could have been slightly better as he was a bit front-on at times but overall did really well. This is good because he’d have to do with at Spurs if playing alongside Aurier or Doherty, and suggests he could play in a back three. He also has good recovery pace and is able to delay when defending 1v1, he is able to take control of these situations and while he’s passive in that he doesn’t go for the ball, he is good at forcing the player backwards, slowing the attack and forcing the player into decisions he doesn’t want such as sideways passes instead of being able to shoot, or having to go on the outside.
He doesn’t tend to press out of the defensive line but reads the game well and will if needed, but he’d rather hold his position, especially as Cash is likely to press out. When defending long balls, he will step into midfield to compete in the air. If he’s there early and waiting statically under a long ball, he’s able to clear it well but if coming across as the ball is landing, he a lot weaker in the duel and can be caught out of position a bit if late arriving. He could use his physicality more though as when he does, he is very strong but lacked aggression at times to dominate duels. When in the defensive line, he has good body position with slightly bent knees and is on his toes, always scanning and adjusting his positioning, as well as the players around him. At times you can see him consider pressing out but he tends to be disciplined and stay put, making good decisions in these situations.