We’re going to dive a little more in-depth with a number of forwards that have been targeted or linked with Aston Villa.
Words: Guy Poxon | @GuyPoxon
Aston Villa face seemingly unfair injury woes with three players out until next season. One of which is, of course, Wesley, who has shown signs of promise this season but whose inexperience has resulted in very patchy form.
A chance, then, for Villa to bring in a goal-scorer and another focal point for the team, other than Jack Grealish. But Premier League goal scorers aren’t easy to find (at least not for under £50,000,000 these days), and the signing of Danny Drinkwater on loan shows the need for Villa to take more of a punt in the striker department.
Whether Villa’s incoming striker performs like Marlon Harewood or fails like Grant Holt, remains to be seen.
Join us as we delve deeper into some of the targets:
Christian Benteke: The Return of the King?
The big Belgian earned a move to Aston Villa of the back of a prolific season at Genk where he scored 19 goals in 37 appearances. He would remain at Villa Park for three seasons, with the following record:
2012-13: 34 apps, 19 goals
2013-14: 26 apps, 10 goals
2014-15: 29 apps, 13 goals
Christian Benteke undoubtedly was one of the main forces that was keeping the club in the Premier League and his loss proved irreplaceable for Aston Villa.
What has happened to Big Ben?
His excellent form at Aston Villa earned Benteke a move to Liverpool – where he remained for one season – scoring nine goals in 29 appearances.
Not a terrible record by any means, but it underwhelmed Liverpool fans. It might have been accepted by the fans at Villa Park, but he didn’t quite cut it for the Reds.
He then moved to Crystal Palace, where he has remained for four seasons, with his form steadily declining after a strong first year:
2016-17: 36 apps, 15 goals
2017-18: 30 apps, 3 goals
2018-19: 16 apps, 1 goal
Benteke will hope to get his season back on track after failing to score in 15 appearances so far (mostly as a substitute with only 4 starts in the league).
Despite failing to register a goal or assist, Christian Benteke averages 2.88 shots on goal every 90 minutes, which remains the same as his shots per 90 during his time at Aston Villa.
His expected goals tally is only 0.97, but he has played 469 minutes to date with most of those minutes coming as a substitute. In fact, Benteke’s four starts this season have yielded a pretty high match rating of 7.33 – it’s his substitute appearances at Crystal Palace which seem to have been a burden on his performances.
After all, Big Ben is still winning headers, at an average of 4.4 per game, and able to link up play well, with 1.4 passes on average leading to a shot per 90 minutes.
Maybe bringing Tekkers back to familiar surroundings with the fans behind him could at least help the Belgian’s confidence for a while.
Aston Villa grabbing at Giroud?
Perhaps the more upmarket option, Olivier Giroud is reportedly the ‘number one’ target for Dean Smith in this window.
The French international will want game time ahead of this summer’s Euros and he’s not getting it ahead of Tammy Abraham. What an interesting twist of fate it would be if an ex-villain in Abraham forces Giroud to move to Villa Park.
With only five Premier League appearances and no goals to his name this season, his 0.63 expected goals tally and 0.75 expected assists tally do not match Giroud’s usual form. His record in the air is poor this season, winning only 1.4 aerials duels per match in the League – but winning three per match in four appearances for the French national team. His shots per game are relatively low too, at an average of 0.6.
Perhaps Olivier’s age, at thirty-three, is catching up with him. A player of Giroud’s talent should not be in such poor form. But how does this form compare to that over the last couple of seasons?
Giroud’s stats have always been relatively underwhelming in truth – but looking at a more recent Giroud – the only stats he’s currently not replicating are his key passes (0.8 per game currently). Even his expected goals remained similar when compared to the number of appearances he’s made over the last several seasons.
Giroud might not provide the same outlet as Benteke, and wouldn’t necessarily be prolific either – but we’ve all seen him play and he’s shown he can be a big-game player. He’s a target man who team-mates thrive off via wonderful hold-up play and a good touch. There’s also the occasional wondergoal – which may provide a lift for the Villa faithful if nothing else.
Route one move for Murray
Aston Villa have been linked with Brighton’s once-talisman, Glenn Murray.
Even last season, he proved almost unstoppable, scoring 13 goals in 38 appearances and virtually keeping Brighton in the top flight.
Most Brighton fans, however, will tell you that he’s looking past his best in truth, and the additions of Mooy and Maupay have seriously hindered the twilight years of Murray’s career.
So far the English bruiser has made 13 appearances but is yet to score a goal or register an assist. Winning only 1.3 aerial duels a game suggests that Glenn’s legs may have truly lost any spring which they had last year.
Murray does have an xG of 1.24 with an expected assist tally of 0.8 too – which suggests his luck in goal could yet improve. However, those numbers remain pretty low for what Aston Villa need, which is someone to lead the line and score goals.
In truth, signing a journeyman comes with the very real risk that they probably won’t pay off.
A left-field choice?
Better options in the past have come in the form of players who still have something to give or a diamond in the rough.
Dean Smith and the recruitment team pulled off a miracle find in Tyrone Mings last January, and Aston Villa picked up John McGinn from the Scottish League – but it looks like a miracle needs to happen again with a striker.
AC Milan’s Krzysztof Piatek has been linked with Aston Villa, then unlinked, and then linked again. It would be a surprise move for the former wonderkid, who now at 24 only moved from Genoa to Milan for 35,000,000 euros in January 2019.
He’s scored 13 goals in 36 appearances for AC Milan over the space of a year, but has been prolific – albeit in lesser leagues – throughout his career. As he came of age for Genoa in Serie A, he scored 19 goals in 21 appearances to earn his big-money move.
Piatek’s xG is the highest of any forward mentioned at 7.52, and his expected assists sit at 1.69. Both of those area shade higher than Wesley – but note that this is Piatek’s worst run of form in recent seasons.
Why would Piatek want to move? Well, despite seemingly decent stats, it doesn’t seem to be working 100% at Milan. His match ratings are pretty low at 6.5, compared to Wesley’s 6.76 for example, and in truth it would offer a good opportunity to get out of a rut and pose a new challenge.
Piatek is a risk, but he’s the right age and has the potential world-class touch that the other options don’t.