While Tim Sherwood’s revolution at Aston Villa this summer has been severely undermined by the departure of Fabian Delph, which was met with such understandable acrimony from Villa fans, and Christian Benteke’s comparatively understated, yet prolonged exit, a key problem which has plagued the club for years has hopefully been resolved.
With Villa’s last quality left-back arguably having been the desperately unlucky Wilfred Bouma, the fans have seen players in that position virtually change with the seasons in the seven years since the Dutchman’s horrendous injury. Nicky Shorey, Stephen Warnock, Joe Bennett, Antonio Luna, Aly Cissokho and Kieran Richardson all having failed to impress on a consistent basis in the position.
However, after a prolonged pursuit which has reportedly been ongoing for the best part of a month, Sherwood and the club will be hoping that the arrival of young French defender Jordan Amavi from Nice will put an end to the issue for the foreseeable future.
Who is Jordan Amavi?
Amavi arrives at Villa with over 50 Ligue 1 games under his belt and on the back of an outstanding season last term. Nice may have failed to impress in stuttering to an 11th-place finish (although admittedly after the last few years that’s almost confetti and champagne territory for Villa), but that certainly wasn’t the case for the 21-year-old himself, who has been lauded by journalists and supporters alike for his performances.
he has carved out a reputation as being of the all-too-rare breed of full-back who can defend and attack successfully
Amavi missed only two games last season and quickly gained a reputation not only as one of the best left-backs in France but also as a potential contender for the future of the country in the position. The current French under-21 international has been widely expected to break into his country’s senior squad ahead of Euro 2016, if he can maintain the form he displayed for Nice.
What will he bring to Villa?
By all accounts, Amavi had an outstanding year in Ligue 1 last season. WhoScored.com gave him the second-highest rating in the French top-flight, behind only Zlatan Ibrahimovic with an average of 7.74 per game.
WhoScored also lists him as having made at least 25 more interceptions than any other player in any of Europe’s top five leagues with 165 – an average of 4.6 per game – which shows both his positional awareness and his ability to read the game.
One potential weak spot in the defensive side of his game is that he didn’t have a great disciplinary record in France last season, committing 49 fouls and picking up nine yellow cards, although his average of nearly four tackles a game – only two players in Ligue 1 made more – implies that he’ll either win the ball or break up play with a foul rather than letting himself be beaten.
Not only has he been a consistent and stable defensive force on the left for Nice, but he has carved out a reputation as being of the all-too-rare breed of full-back who can defend and attack successfully and in equal measure. He saw a lot of the ball for Nice last season and is both comfortable running in possession and athletic enough to overlap in attack and track back as needed. Though he stands only 5 foot 9 inches tall he can also pose a threat in the air, having scored three times with his head during the last campaign.
Can he be a success at the club?
Amavi certainly has the talent and the attributes to succeed at Villa but it has been suggested by a couple of leading French football journalists that he needed more time in Ligue 1 to develop before making this sort of move.
As players such as Carlos Sanchez have proven, adapting to the English game and the pace and intensity of the Premier League brings a huge challenge. Sanchez failed to regularly replicate his often tremendous displays for Colombia at the 2014 World Cup and this summer’s Copa America in his first year at the club last season, and for such a young talent as Amavi, settling into life at a club with high expectations in an unforgiving league will bring a huge amount of pressure.
Adding to the pressure will be the transfer fee Villa are paying for him, worth up to around £10 million. There have been question marks over the size of the fee, with whispers that Nice would have accepted a considerably lower valuation, but in offering such a hefty amount Villa have priced out competitors including Lyon – rumoured to be Amavi’s preferred destination – and thus secured the talented youngster’s signature.
Amavi is reported to have needed a whole lot of convincing before making the move to Villa Park, something which potentially could spell trouble a way down the line if he fails to settle or Villa continue to underperform. Though Sherwood can certainly talk the talk, the biggest persuasion is likely to have been the apparent offer of a wage packet which trebles what the Frenchman earned on his most recent Nice contract. Though the lure of the Premier League must have a played a part in his move, don’t think money hasn’t been a factor.
both comfortable running in possession and athletic enough to overlap in attack and track back
Although still a developing talent Amavi undoubtedly has tremendous potential, and if he can settle quickly in England, adapt rapidly to the English game and continue to progress as he has started Villa could have pulled off a real coup.
What next this summer?
The signings of Scott Sinclair, Micah Richards, Idrissa Gueye, Michael Bunn and Amavi represent decent business in terms of player arrivals so far Jordan Amaviin Sherwood’s first transfer window as Villa manager. However, with Delph having sinned as he has and Benteke’s medical with Liverpool reported to be taking place early next week, there is still a huge amount of work to be done in the three weeks before the new season kicks off.
The other side of defence needs addressing, the club needs to replace Benteke with a striker of similar calibre as well as bringing in further options up front, and despite the arrival of Gueye the midfield still needs urgent reinforcing in the wake of Delph’s about-turn.
If Villa are to prevent a catastrophic season after losing their best two players, these signings need to be made both quickly and carefully – only then will we really see a revolution under Tim Sherwood. UTV
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