As Samatta struggles to get to grips with Premier League football, his woes echo those of his club.
Words: Mark Jirobe | @VillaMarkPGH
It was supposed to be a different story for Mbwana Ally Samatta when he arrived at Aston Villa.
The striker, born in Tanzania and sharpening his skills in Belgium, looked to be the type of striker that Aston Villa yearned for off the back of a season-ending injury to their main man Wesley.
Aston Villa were in the midst of a serious injury crisis throughout the entirety of January; relying on Anwar El Ghazi and youngster Indiana Vassilev to deputise as forwards. Samatta was to be a breath of fresh air in a time where the oxygen was largely absent at Villa Park. As well as goals.
The signing of Samatta came with more than a touch of intrigue, but this was only magnified during his debut game against Bournemouth in February. Keinan Davis would see his shot blocked in the Bournemouth penalty area and Samatta was keen to find himself in a position to head the ball into the back of the net for a debut goal.
The goal itself wouldn’t have much bearing on the outcome of the game, but it seemed like Aston Villa had found a serviceable striker that looked as if he was quick and ready to impress his new club.
Since that day, Ally has only been able to experience that goal-scoring feeling on one other occasion, against Manchester City in the Final of the Carabao Cup. With good reason, Aston Villa supporters have started to become increasingly critical of the striker who arrived in B6 to the tune of £8,500,000.
It doesn’t appear that Samatta lacks any kind of physical ability. The striker seems to be incredibly fit and is rarely seen ‘huffing and puffing’ on the pitch, even though he is left to roam around as the sides sole striker in the formation used by Aston Villa manager Dean Smith.
The criticisms aimed at the Tanzanian forward seem to be a poor first touch, not running off the shoulder of opposing defenders and not being able to hit the target. It’s a worry that in 26 touches in the opposition penalty area since joining Aston Villa, Samatta has only registered two goals across all competitions.
In the latest content against Everton, a 1-1 draw, Samatta’s heatmap (below) shows that he spent rather a large amount of time on the left flank. Regardless of whether this is a part of the opposition’s game plan or out of necessity by Samatta, the lone striker needs to do a much better job of sticking to centralised areas of the pitch – it does his team-mates no favours when he puts himself into non-useful positions where he cannot affect the game.
Samatta gave up possession of the ball on nine occasions against Everton, with four of those losses coming in the wide areas of the pitch. Amazingly enough, this is an improvement on the 13 occasions in which the striker was dispossessed against Crystal Palace.
Aston Villa now find themselves in a tough situation at the wrong end of the table, with two must-win games against Arsenal and West Ham. The Villans will also need a helping hand or two from other teams around them in the relegation zone. And having strikers that can’t score goals will not help that situation one bit.