Brentford are reportedly close to finalising a deal to sign Bologna full-back Aaron Hickey. A fee in the region of £15m plus add-ons is understood to have been agreed between the two parties and it is believed that there are final touches on the deal to be ironed out before the incredibly talented Scottish international is able to complete his move, with which a medical is expected to take place. The Bees’ interest in the full-back went as far as January, as they attempted to sign him then with Arsenal also reportedly interested in the player’s signature.
The 20-year-old joined the Serie A club from Hearts – for a reported fee of £1.5m in 2020 and enjoyed a remarkable rise to prominence through his tremendous performances in the Italian top flight. With Rico Henry establishing himself as Thomas Frank’s go-to left wing-back in his tried and trusted 3-5-2 shape, Hickey will certainly come in and provide quality competition. The defender has made quite the splash in Italian football since his arrival in 2020, a football culture that certainly takes to expansive wing-backs with open arms.
His versatility has also seen him feature centrally for Mihajlovic’s men, even featuring in a midfield berth against Juventus last season – a testament to his tremendous qualities in possession and the assuredness and level-headedness he brings to the Bologna squad.
As the Brentford coach looks to evolve and expand his team’s game next term, Aaron Hickey could well provide the perfect tonic in achieving those small tweaks. This ability to transition into more attacking areas, and also the ability to break opposition lines and drive his team up the pitch means the Bees could well become more efficient and decisive in their approach play, something they enjoyed to devastating effect in the first season in the English Premier League last term.
The Glasgow-born ace’s goal-scoring ability down the flanks has made him very useful to his current employers, and he is certainly not one for scoring a scrappy effort as you would associate with defenders. A low piledriver against Genoa stands out, alongside an effort against Lazio despite Lazzari trying to match the Scotsman’s tenacity – a fierce strike eventually bundled in.
Also, his impressive 20-yard effort against Sassuolo in December is another that stands out.
His attacking style of play is also seen in Hickey’s constant aggression, a constant desire to chase after the ball and advance The Red and Blues further up the field. In moments of immense pressure on the ball, Bologna’s number 3 is aggressive in inserting himself into the battle but also calm in playing his fellow teammates into space.
First and foremost, it’s important to note that Hickey registered an impressive five goals and laying on another one in 36 Serie A outings for Bologna, which means he will indeed be ranked amongst the best in goalscoring metrics amongst full-backs in Europe’s top five leagues. Indeed, he ranks in the top 7 % for goals per 90 minutes (0.16), in the top 9%for shots on target (0.41), the top 1% for shots on target % (61.9%) and in the top 4% for goals per shot, suggesting the Scottish defender is an incredible goal threat for his team, not afraid to take on efforts on goal.
He’s proven more well-rounded in the attacking sense than Brentford Rico Henry, registering six-goal contributions to Henry’s three.
Aaron Hickey’s defensive metrics against opposition wingers make for more telling reading and highlighting how impressive he is when facing up against opponents. He ranks in the top 13% of full-backs for % of dribblers tackled (59.3%), and in the top 1% for the number of times dribbled past (0.35) per 90 minutes – these numbers all suggest Hickey is an instant upgrade on Henry who’s numbers (30.6% & 0.81 per 90 respectively) do not even come close to the same heights as the Scottish wonderkid.
The 20-year-old has again proven he is amongst the best when standing up against opposing wingers – something he’ll be tested considerably in when plying his trade in the Premier League.
The Glasgow-born star also ranks in the top 13% for shots blocked per 90, again that is 15% more than his positional counterpart Rico Henry, highlighting his speciality in his last-ditch defending.
It does seem as if Thomas Frank has identified a worthy competition to the English defender, and someone who could help improve his own game. Though, the numbers above suggest that it will not be a surprise to see Hickey quickly usurp Henry in the Brentford pecking order next season.