Not only does Traoré have something to prove to his former club, but he has something to prove to Dean Smith too.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
With Ross Barkley unable to play against Chelsea this evening even if he was fit, it’s likely that Dean Smith will opt for the continued use of Anwar El Ghazi and Bertrand Traoré after the wingers have produced goals in their last two games against West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace.
Traoré opened the scoring at Villa Park just two days ago against Crystal Palace, a smart finish on his weaker foot as he reacted the quickest when Guaita palmed Ollie Watkins’ shot into a central position – but the Burkina Faso international will have been disappointed to have been the player sacrificed for Ezri Konsa following Tyrone Mings’ dismissal.
Some could argue that Traoré has been one of the brightest sparks over the last two fixtures and that Dean Smith was simply providing the Burkinabe with more rest ahead of an important fixture against his former club – but with the winger providing such a strong performance in the first half, he will have wanted to continue into the second.
Bertrand, arguably, will want to prove that the gaffer was wrong to take him off to sure up the defence by carrying on where he left off against Hodgson’s Palace side – despite the fact that Anwar El Ghazi, who was the other player most likely to be taken off for Konsa – also continued his fine form with a thunderous strike to seal all three points.
The winger, who joined in the summer, was unlucky to be hooked and was fairly unlucky not to have picked up a brace too, with a left-footed shot beating Vincente Guaita but being stopped by the woodwork.
Not only does Bertrand Traoré have something to prove to his current manager this evening, he has something to prove to his former club as he returns to Stamford Bridge for the first time since the Traoré-induced transfer ban which was inflicted on Chelsea.
The London-based club was banned from transfer activity due to their deal to sign Bertrand Traoré as a youngster as Chelsea has misled the Football Association over dates related to the then 18-year-old’s signing, appearances for the club without official registration, the length of his contract, and initial payments paid to the player’s mother to ensure that the club was given first refusal over his signature when he became of age – as well as a £20,000-per-year fee paid to allow the youngster to attend the Whitgift School in Surrey.
The 25-year-old will be itching to prove that Chelsea’s lack of patience regarding his development – as he made 10 appearances across three years for the Blues – and his multiple loans to the Netherlands before his signing for Olympique Lyonnais were a mistake. He’ll also be itching to showcase his ability after Chelsea reportedly declined to activate a buy-back clause in his deal with Lyon ahead of Aston Villa’s interest in him.
His form has turned, and heads have begun to turn for him – pundits and fans alike. If he can keep it up, there’s no reason he couldn’t prove himself even further tonight at his old haunting ground.
Maybe he could even make it three goals in three.