With the 2020/2021 season finished and the Euros a couple of weeks away, the back pages of the international press have moved onto football’s second biggest dramatic spectacle right after the game itself: transfer rumors. The rumor mills love nothing more than a long running domestic transfer saga, and while Harry Kane’s future at Tottenham is this summer’s big drama, there’s still plenty of space for Aston Villa’s transfer targets.
Here are a selection of potential targets from around the Premier League, and their likelihood of making the switch to Villa Park.
Tammy Abraham’s future looks to be another long running saga this off-season with the striker left out of the Chelsea squad by Thomas Tuchel. After Abraham’s 20 goal season in which helped earn Villa promotion back to the Premier League while on loan, it is only natural that any discussion about his future would include Villa as a potential destination. The striker has been reported to be valued at £40 million by Chelsea, with Leicester and West Ham also rumored to have shown interest.
While a center forward is a position that might be looked at this summer, it should not be a priority, with Watkins offering a lot off the ball to add to his goals and £22 million signing, Wesley, returning from injury ahead of preseason. Many would like to see Abraham back at Villa Park, but with both Leicester and West Ham able to offer European football and a clear starting spot in systems that could suit a penalty box striker, it seems unlikely. The price tag, while seemingly low for a 23-year-old who was the club’s top scorer in the 2019/2020 season, seems a bit over what Villa might be willing to pay with other positions being a higher priority this summer.
Chances of Occurring: As likely as Fernandinho to get a card for a blatant tactical foul: 2/10
One of those higher priority positions is for a creative winger/attacking midfielder to work with Jack Grealish and pick up the slack when he is out of the team. Emi Buendia is a name that has probably cropped up on several transfer lists after following up an impressive 2019/2020 campaign with an even better championship one; earning Norwich City 15 goals and 16 assists in their promotion campaign. As per a report from David Ornstein, and later confirmed by the god of midlands transfer reporting, John Percy, both Aston Villa and Arsenal have emerged as the serious front runners to sign the Argentine play-maker should he leave East Anglia this summer.
Buendia ticks a lot of boxes for the type of player to help take Villa to the next level — offering creativity, a goal threat in possession, active pressing, defensive fluidity, and at 24 years old, he is within the typical age range of Villa’s targets. While he has primary played on the right for Daniel Farke at Norwich, Buendia could move onto the left or even through the middle in Dean Smith’s system, with the player being right footed; somewhere the player has been used prior to his time in East Anglia.
Norwich, however, have just been re-promoted to the Premier League, so they would not let Buendia go easily, but would reportedly listen to offers of over £40 million. This remains a difficult one to see happening, with Arsenal as a ‘Big Six’, London based club are still an attractive option despite their recent troubles. The price tag starting at £40 million would also break Villa’s transfer record by some distance and the club might not meet Norwich’s evaluation with three to five players expected to arrive this summer. The asking price, plus probable extras, while not ludicrous in today’s market could possibly be slightly out of reach for both clubs and there is still a chance that Buendia stays at Norwich come next season.
Chances of Occurring: About the same as the German national team reaching any given final of an international tournament: 6/10
A number of reports state that Matheus Pereira is a potential target for Villa this summer, with the original breaking source coming from Steve Madelay of The Athletic. Since then, The Times have reported that West Bromwich Albion would ask for £24 million for the creative winger and John Percy has stated that Villa’s transfer policy will prefer players with English football experience, in an article about the club’s more concrete interest in Emi Buendia.
This link then makes sense as Villa want an experienced creative player to add to their forward line in order to build on what has worked this season, while also providing back up for Grealish. The interest in Buendia, however, could mean Pereira is seen as a secondary target; one to move in for should the clubs primary transfer target fail to materialize. Pereira, being primarily a left footed winger, possibly would be in direct competition with Bertrand Traore, who has scored seven and assisted six in his first season at the football club, but could also be used through the middle with Grealish moving back onto the left wing.
The reasonable asking price will probably attract a number of clubs after Pereira was one of the bright sparks in an otherwise unimpressive West Brom campaign; should one of those clubs make him their preferred target early, Villa could easily miss out.
Chances of Occurring: Currently the same as José Mourinho lasting longer than two years at a club: 3/10
Sander Berge & Andre-Frank Anguissa
Moving on to defensive midfielders, two links that have come out of the Daily Mail are for regulated defensive midfielder’s, Sander Berge and Andre-Frank Anguissa. It is important to keep in mind that both were linked with Arsenal and Everton within those very same reports. The Mail’s poor reliability when it comes to transfer rumors could mean that neither are targets for Villa, but with a gap in Villa’s squad for a larger, more physical midfielder, let’s assess their suitability for Villa on a footballing and economic level.
What becomes clear while looking at data is that Anguissa is better suited to the gap in Villa’s squad than Berge, despite being the shorter of the pair. While being good in the tackle, Berge isn’t particularly active defensively, making fewer tackles per 90 minutes than any of Villa’s current midfielders including McGinn, and far fewer than Anguissa. This plays out for other defensive metrics such as blocks, interceptions, and pressures; though in the latter, Nakamba comes out on top in terms of the number and success rate of 29.8%, just over Anguissa’s 29.2%.
In terms of keeping possession and moving the ball, Anguissa also comes out well, attempting a similar number of passes to Douglas Luiz at a similar success rate and he comes out on top of Berge and Villa’s current defensive midfielder’s for carrying the ball progressively. Where Berge stands out is in expected goals and assists (Measures of chance creation), but in this too, he only matches Anguissa when penalties are removed. While all these metrics favor Anguissa, Berge’s numbers stack up well when looking at his 2019/2020 season for both Genk and Sheffield United, so perhaps injuries have played their part in this drop off.
Economically, Anguissa also makes more sense; he was loaned out to Villareal last season, presumably because he has no regulation wage reduction clause in his contract and has been reported to be available for around £20 million. Berge, however, has a buyout clause in which due to relegation, is reduced to £35 million — a far bigger outlay for a player who has only appeared 15 times this season due to injury.
That being said, Villa would have to make room in their squad for another defensive midfielder, so may wait to see if Manchester City activate Douglas Luiz’s buy back clause before moving on anyone. As of yet, there are not any reliable links to either of these two players, but of the two, Anguissa is the one to keep an eye on this summer.
Chances of Occurring for Berge: About the same chance of scoring a Panenka at Sunday league: 2/10
Chances of Occurring for Anguissa: About the same as actually meaning to hit the top corner at Sunday league: 3/10