Aston Villa have made a swift and impressive start to the summer - with the permanent signings of Philippe Coutinho, Boubacar Kamara, Diego Carlos and Robin Olsen already wrapped up. Steven Gerrard identified CDM and CB as key positions to strengthen this summer, with the Villa boss moving quickly to bolster his options. Coutinho and Olsen’s loan deals have been made permanent after impressive spells especially from the Brazilian. But what will the remainder of the window hold for Steven Gerrard and his squad?
The ever reliable Tom Collomosse has reported that whilst Villa aim to move out fringe players, Gerrard wants 3 more signings this summer. A left-back, a midfielder and forward are on the agenda - with Steven Gerrard keen to get Villa’s business done before players return for pre-season in July.
I thought I’d take a look at the type of players Villa should be looking at in these positions and what they would bring to this Villa team.
Going into the window it was widely reported that Gerrard wanted a young, progressive understudy to Lucas Digne. Since then, Calvin Bassey, Borna Sosa, Aaron Hickey and Sergio Gomez have all been linked. A progressive type of LB should be a key objective for Villa‘s scouting and attacking directness should also be a feature. As well as buying someone who can provide sufficient competition for Digne, Villa should be targeting a LB who brings something different to the table. It’s rare to see Digne carry the ball with pace, he uses inside passes to link the play instead. Goal contribution and chance creation from wide are key for Gerrard’s system to work.
21 year old LB Sergio Gomez has 11 assists for Anderlecht this season, he’s said to be on Villa’s radar. Aaron Hickey is deemed ‘too expensive’, despite reports he’s available for around the £20m mark. Calvin Bassey is a different type of player. The Nigerian international is more physical - top 1% for tackles won in Europe last season. He could also cover at CB. Although the player I want to focus on is the Croatian left-back, Borna Sosa of Stuttgart. The 24 year-old has 8 assists this season and is in the top 2% in Europe for key passes per 90. He’s also in the top 4% for assists per 90 in Europe - such goal contribution would benefit our squad and provide us with a more attacking minded LB option.
Don’t forget about young Ben Chrisene either - it’s so crucial that we don’t hinder the development of our young stars.
Despite the signing of midfielder Boubacar Kamara, it seems Steven Gerrard is still pursuing another midfielder amid reports that Douglas Luiz will leave Villa Park this summer. The futures of Morgan Sanson and Carney Chukwuemeka also look uncertain so it makes perfect sense for Villa to be chasing another midfielder. There’s been a lot of talk around the position of John Mcginn in our squad next season, with some suggesting a new no.8 should be brought in to replace the Scotland international. Mcginn has had another inconsistent season in claret and blue, questions have been asked over his long term status in Gerrard’s team. However, any such talk of Mcginn being replaced has no substance to it - with Mcginn regarded as a ‘key player’ for Gerrard’s revolution. So who should Villa target in midfield? Former target Yves Bissouma is set to join Spurs and Kalvin Phillips is wanted by Manchester City. A name I’d like to introduce, Cheick Doucoré of Lens.
The Mali international is top 7% for progressive passes per 90 in Europe and top 5% for successful pressures, he’d give our midfield a good balance for the forward players to prosper off. His price stands at £15m, with Crystal Palace interested. His midfield partner, Seko Fofana, is another eye catching player. Conor Gallagher has been linked in recent days, could that Gerrard pull be crucial again?
Finally, the forward conundrum. Ollie Watkins has been the victim of criticism over the season for his lack of technical ability and his failure to convert certain chances. However, Watkins matches his NPXG (non-penalty expected goals) - of 0.35 per 90. Expected goals measures the quality of a chance by calculating the likelihood that it will be scored from a particular position on the pitch during a particular phase of play. As a team, whilst Villa’s XG under Gerrard has been better than that under Smith, our XG has still been fairly low considering the quality of player we have in our squad. Our low XG points to a lack of chance creation in attacking play.
So I don’t believe Watkins is the issue as he‘s doing the best he can really. I’d be open to selling Ings, but Villa have made it clear he’s not for sale. Cameron Archer is wanted by many Championship clubs but I would really like to see him tested in the Premier League - especially with the new 5 subs rule. Archer’s goalscoring form, more recently for the England U21s, has been impressive and I feel we could benefit from his finishing ability next season. If Villa are considering another forward addition, this would surely see one of the 3 strikers we currently have, leave on loan or permanently. The striker market is very limited at the moment, could Villa turn to a PL forward to come into the squad? Armando Broja..?
The remainder of the window will be very interesting to say the least. It seems for the time being, the focus has turned to shifting the fringe players out the club. Matt Targett completed his permanent move to Newcastle United last week for a fee of £15m - Villa’s second highest sale since the sale of Christian Benteke in 2015.
Let‘s us hope for some more exciting incomings ahead of a crucial season ahead.
Thanks for reading, UTV!🙏🏼