Tifo’s sensible transfers: Aston Villa – looking for a safe haven for the ball in midfield

Every transfer window we create a series of videos for the Tifo Football YouTube channel called Sensible Transfers.

In this series, we analyze problems within teams and suggest solutions in the form of incoming players. It’s a fantasy, but fun.

Today, it’s Aston Villa


What a great summer — and it’s barely July. Diego Carlos was signed before most other clubs had their budgets in order, and Boubacar Kamara arrived to play in the midfield base. If anyone was unsure of where Villa intended to go in the Premier League table, these two signings should be treated as an indication.

Elsewhere, there is not much to do. A case could be made for more goals and the addition of another centre-forward, but Cameron Archer has a chance in pre-season and a decision on his near-term future has yet to be made. Let’s leave that for now.

Further back, a young understudy for 28-year-old Lucas Digne would be useful, but the main focus for the rest of the window will likely be outings. Trezeguet is about to leave, as is Anwar El Ghazi. It would be better if Kortney Hause didn’t, but her contract situation doesn’t look like it will be resolved anytime soon.

Our focus, however, will be to complete the midfield. Kamara will become the deepest player in this unit and he is the kind of press-resistant passer required in this role. On either side of him, Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn will be No.8s, with Douglas Luiz another likely to leave the club and Morgan Sanson still a bit odd.

Ball safety would be a good addition to this group. Ramsey is a phenomenal player in the making and he will drive Villa forward with the ball at his feet. There is also a lot of creativity and ambition ahead of him, with Philippe Coutinho and Emi Buendia. But we are looking for a safe haven; someone who can start or support midfield and improve their passing quality – with any other attribute a welcome bonus.

Depending on the ambition of the owners, they could take advantage of Georginio Wijnaldum’s precarious situation at Paris Saint-Germain. PSG are currently engaged in a technical and cultural reset and Wijnaldum, who turns 32 later this year, could be a victim.

Using smarterscout datawhich gives players a rating from 0 to 99, relative either to how often they do a given action compared to others playing for them (such as ball recoveries and interceptions) or to their efficiency (such as their progress the ball up), we can look at Wijnaldum’s quality in every metric.

It would be hard to argue with this option: his death is conservative but reliable, keeping him safe at an exceptional rate (93, as shown in character below) but also able to move it forward and quickly connect with attackers (95) and it boasts a completion rate of over 90% in short and medium distances and around 80% in long distances. He also makes an offensive contribution with his receptions in the opponent’s box (the blue bars below), so that would make eminent sense.

But Wijnaldum’s salary would hardly be incidental and perhaps Villa don’t want to spend much on someone who produced his best years elsewhere. He also doesn’t do well on defensive aspects (red bars above). In another direction, RB Leipzig’s Kevin Kampl is at the veteran stage of his career but has new competition in the center of midfield following the arrival of Xaver Schlager from Wolfsburg.

Kampl is 31, but remains one of the most reliable passers in the Bundesliga. He offers very few goals and measurable attacking contribution, he’s not at all like Wijnaldum in that respect, but he can carry the ball well and he can also pass with determination. His ball retention (91) and the volume by chaining the game (97) are excellent. Basically, Kampl is a very reliable player – regularly available to receive passes, rarely guilty of giving the ball away. And that’s what we’re looking for.

But it may also be an intangible argument, or at least a matter of experience. Villa have a young midfielder. Ramsey and Kamara are finding their way into the game and, while his contract situation can be resolved, Carney Chukwuemeka would also need stability around him if he is to develop properly. Ultimately, there’s more than one reason why a player like Kampl has been such a fixture at a club like RB Leipzig, where there’s a constant focus on nurturing flexible talent. A good player and a good character to have around – and particularly at this point in Villa’s history.

(Photo: Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)