Club football is back. Aston Villa’s opening weekend was a reality check for hypothetical starting lines ups and proposed tactics as Watford put three past Emiliano Martínez to grab the 3-2 win. It appears Villa’s transfer business is wrapping up as the season begins, with Dean Smith indicating Villa were satisfied with their business. However, it’s been widely reported that the club would like one more through the door, with that preference being a holding midfielder.
Let’s take a look at who that might be.
Aston Villa have been linked with RC Lens 21-year-old Cheick Doucouré. Marc Mechenoua of Goal France claims the Ligue 1 wants €15m. Subsequent reports from Lens fan site MadeinLens state Villa have made a £10m offer (€12m), but nothing more concrete is floating around.
Doucouré fits the mould of other holding players Villa have looked at this window. He’s statistically similar to Pape Matar Sarr, who offers a midpoint between the solidity of Marvelous Nakamba, and the expansive player of Douglas Luiz. He’s defensively solid, making a high number of tackles and interceptions. Though he is not tasked with pressing much for Lens, he has been successful in 35% of them, a high rate for midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues. He also offers an improvement when taking the ball out of danger, able to dribble to a high level as well as making a good number of progressive passes and passes into the final third. Yet Doucouré is still a little raw: his long and medium range passing may be excellent, but his short passing, a skill Villa already lack in midfield, is a little suspect, completing 87.6%.
Regardless, Doucouré would be a fantastic option to develop in Villa’s midfield and his offensive and defensive abilities could be vital to freeing John McGinn to assist Villa’s attack. McGinn is currently hamstrung in the double pivot, not being able to push up either to offer an option for Nakamba or to bring solidity to Luiz. However, as yet the links to Doucouré aren’t particularly solid. It’s essential to remember he wouldn’t be an instant fix for Villa’s issues, but it is a deal to keep an eye on to see if it progresses.
Chances of Occurring: Same chance as Douglas Luiz getting a yellow card against Newcastle. 5/10
Other transfer rumours to watch
André -Frank Zambo Anguissa
The Fulham midfielder has been persistently linked to Aston Villa as well as a number of other Premier League clubs this summer and is widely expected to leave after not appearing in his side’s opening fixture. Fulham are unlikely to drop their asking price and the fact that Anguissa is still at Fulham at this stage indicates it is a significant one. 3/10.
Pape Matar Sarr
A recent update stated the FC Metz president is flying to the UK to hold talks with three clubs over the young player. With their interest earlier in the window, Villa could be one of those clubs, but more recently the player has been linked to contenders for the top four, probably driving the price higher than Villa would pay. 2/10.
Aston Villa are certainly interested in the Saints midfielder according to several reliable sources, but it seems he is not going to be transferred this summer as he has four years left on his contract. 1/10.
Villa have also been linked to another left winger after the departure of Jack Grealish, this time in the form of Joaquin Correa from Lazio. The inside forward scored 11 goals and assisted 5 across the Champions League and Serie A last season, but the Argentinian is reportedly looking for a new challenge.
It looks unlikely that new challenge will be Villa however. Not only do the side already have a whole new attack to bed in; the player doesn’t offer the creative profile that a Grealish replacement would need, being more of a striker. A few of these types of links will appear in the press as Villa is an easy name to pick out as a club with money to spend, but if Correa does leave this summer, it will probably be elsewhere.
Chances of Occurring: Similar to a game going by without a commentator mentioning fans being back. 1/10.
In the same category of rumour is Villa’s link to Mario Hermoso from Atlético Madrid. The centre back is left footed, an area Villa are already well stocked in, and it seems unlikely the club will spend £30m on a new central defender, having just gotten Axel Tuanzebe through the door on loan from Manchester United.
Chances of Occurring: As likely as Watford are to keep the same manager for an entire season. 1/10.