Ismaila Sarr Transfer to Aston Villa
It’s been widely reported that Aston Villa are close to officially announcing the signing of Ismaila Sarr. Their bid of circa £25m, plus add-ons and sell-on clause, for the Watford winger was apparently accepted on Saturday, although there is understood to be some personal terms to still be ironed out with the player. According to the Daily Telegraph, there was a medical on Sunday, so all being well, Sarr could and should be in the squad for the visit of West Ham to Villa Park at the weekend.
The timing of the transfer comes very swiftly after Villa’s latest abject performance in the 3-1 loss at Crystal Palace. Sarr hasn’t featured in the Watford squad for their last two fixtures, so the move has obviously been in motion during the past week.
At 6ft1 and possessing genuine pace and power, with a quick footballing brain, Sarr offers the kind of profile Villa are missing in terms of their attacking options.
While many Villa supporters will see Sarr as a welcome addition to the Villa squad, they’ll be some who increasingly question whether it’s fast becoming a squad of decent individuals, rather than one that can fit together in any semblance of a proper cohesive team. After all, as some supporters are keen to point out, Gerrard’s system tends to rely on dynamic full-backs rather than wingers for width.
The Villa boss stated after the Palace loss that:
“We’re always looking to improve in every marginal gain and, if there’s a bit of help we could get, we’ll always analyse that situation.”
Marginal gains? Until the Villa midfield has major surgery, at least in its organisation and probably bringing in proper number eight, then the team are likely to struggle to finish in the top half, never mind be in the mix for European places.
Maybe the Sarr signing is an indication of a potential upcoming shift from Gerrard’s current struggling system?
Gerrard had previously spoken about having a bloated squad, but in relation to Sarr, at least the club have managed to move on two wingers, with both Trezeguet and Bertrand Traore moving to the Turkish Süper Lig. Traore was pictured in Turkey at the weekend wearing an İstanbul Başakşehir scarf, ahead of his loan move there.
“Is he the type of player Villa are going to have to sell to a Turkish club in a couple of years time?” is a question worth asking of Sarr, when you take a closer look.
Sarr had come out of the same Generation Foot academy in Senegal as Sadio Mane, whose first European club was also Metz. It was at Rennes though (who Sarr allegedly turned Barcelona down for, to play regular football), that the hype rapidly grew around him.
At the time of the World Cup in Russia in 2018, aged 20-years-old, the media were linking Sarr to Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal for £50m.
The realty is though, a year later, he ended up at Watford, as their record signing for £30m.
The 24-year-old player has since suffered two relegations from the Premier League with the Hornets, scoring 10 goals from 50 appearances during those two Premier League seasons.
Missing in Action
Sarr suffered two injuries in his first Premier League season, that saw him miss eight league games, split equally across two separate months on the sidelines. While last season in the Premier League, three separate injuries (including hamstring and ligament problems) made him miss a total of 12 league games across the winter months.
Despite his price valuation seemingly regressing since 2018, considering his age, Villa will consider that Sarr’s best years are actually ahead of him and the key will obviously be to keep him injury-free.
Sarr already has established international pedigree with Senegal, after winning 47 caps and helping them lift the last African Nations Cup. He’ll line-up in Qatar later this season for his national team against Holland, Ecuador and the hosts, in Group A of the World Cup.
There is an issue for Villa next season with Sarr though, after the next African Nations Cup in the Ivory Coast was pushed back to January 2024, from what would have been pre-season in June/July of 2023. If Senegal have a successful run, it could see the player miss a good month of Villa’s fixtures.
Whether Sarr will be a week-in, week-out starter at Villa, remains to be seen. It’s hard to have a solid grasp of what Gerrard’s intentions are tactically going forward into the rest of the season.
The player has been on the club’s radar before Gerrard’s appointment though, so in that sense, at least it doesn’t seem to be a rash reactionary buy.