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Aston Villa acquire French Midfielder Sanson for a reported £14m fee from Olympique Marseille

Club makes first buy of the January transfer window

Olympique Marseille v Nimes Olympique - Ligue 1 Photo by Jonathan Bartolozzi/Olympique de Marseille via Getty Images

After letting Conor Hourihane leave on loan to Championship side Swansea City, Villa are able to get his replacement in Morgan Sanson. Sanson is a French midfielder who has played at the top two tiers of the French football league and had been with Olympique Marseille since January of 2017. After 156 appearances at OM, Sanson brings a wealth of experience from competitions like the Champions League and the Europa league alongside the domestic cups of France despite being only 26 years old. Typically deployed as part of a three man midfield at Marseille, the midfielder will likely play as a classic number 8 in Dean Smith’s 433.

Sky Sports says the fee is £14m, with the fee potentially rising to £15.5m with add ons.

Sanson had been rumored at various points in the last two years to be making moves to the Premier League with Leicester, Arsenal, West Ham, and Wolves all having interest at one point or another. His skillset makes the transition to the English style of play seem relatively easy as he plays direct attacking football with his passing and gets into the dark arts of the defensive game with tactical fouls. Sanson has been able to provide meaningful contributions to the scoresheet while with Marseille as well with 25 goals and 22 assists to his name. Additionally, Sanson has shown some positional flexibility while in France and has played games on both wings, attacking midfielder, and defensive midfielder as well.

Aston Villa are purchasing the services of Sanson for his on field ability along with the perceived fit into Dean Smith’s system as well. Smith demands his players to play with poise and ability in his 433 which is exemplified by Douglas Luiz and Jack Grealish. Sanson looks to be a mix between the two in terms of playstyle. Sanson is a leader on the pitch and draws plenty of fouls in what is an admittedly less physical league in France. Also, the midfielder has been praised by his former manager on his ability to transition play from offense to defense while also being an anchoring presence in the middle of the pitch against pressure.

The combination of these attributes bodes well for Sanson’s success in Claret and Blue as he’ll likely play in a role between Grealish and Luiz. A possible lineup that the midfielder may find themselves in could look like this:

In this lineup, Sanson plays alongside McGinn on the right side of a midfield triangle of the 433. Sanson should prove to be a foil for McGinn as he’ll hold down the middle of the pitch while McGinn presses with boundless energy and attacking fervor. Also, Sanson’s positioning moves Barkley out of his preferred position in the number 10 role into a wing position. Smith clearly loves to give his most creative players a free outlet to move about the pitch and make plays like Grealish does. By moving Barkley out on to the right Smith can give him license to move freely and create while having his midfield anchored by the trio of Luiz, McGinn, and Sanson.

The signing of Sanson looks to be a good one, for a relatively inexpensive price Villa has acquired a player from a top team in a top five league who can come in right away and be a starter. This signing also signals that Sporting Director Johan Lange seems to be on the same page as Smith as the player fits the system that Villa already use and the ambition that the pair share of European Competition. The Sanson signing signals that Villa are truly on their way up and should show the level of competition that should be expecting going forward.