Jack Grealish makes comment on Aston Villa’s poor record from set pieces – so Aston Villa look to swoop for the best set-piece taker in the Premier League.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa look set to address comments from Jack Grealish in the press this week regarding Aston Villa’s poor record from set-pieces, intentionally or not, as they look to swoop for one of the best set-piece deliveries in the league in the form of Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse.
With the most fouled player in the Premier League leading the club out as captain, it makes sense to have a player on the books who can make the most of the number of free-kicks that Jack Grealish wins. That player in the past would have been Conor Hourihane – who looks set to leave Villa Park this summer.
While Ward-Prowse is known for his set-piece ability, the midfielder is anything but a set-piece merchant (despite rifling in two excellent free-kicks against Aston Villa last season). The 26-year-old is technically gifted and offers exceptional passing range and vision too. In recent years, he has added defensive intelligence to his game under Hassenhuttl at Southampton and has become a more complete midfielder.
The England international often drops deep to collect the ball, before offering a progressive outlet with his passing when he receives it. His exceptional passing range would work well with the likes of Ollie Watkins, who likes to get in behind and beat his man.
The signing would showcase preparation for another season of progress on the pitch, and signing a Premier League experienced midfielder who picked up eight goals and seven assists last year would certainly showcase a statement of intent.
While Aston Villa can certainly afford any price tag that Southampton place on James Ward-Prowse, the midfielder’s interest in the move is another question. Ward-Prowse has been at St. Mary’s for 18 years, joining their academy at the age of eight despite coming from a family of die-hard Portsmouth fans.
It is thought that Aston Villa have tabled a £30,000,000 offer for the midfield maestro – but whether Southampton are willing to accept remains to be seen, with the 26-year-old still contracted to the club for another five years and currently the club captain. Ward-Prowse is integral to the way that Southampton play football, paired with a more defensive minded midfielder in Oriol Romeu, with James tasked with finding the forward runs of more attacking team-mates like Ings.
His arrival at Villa Park would surely mean the end of Conor Hourihane’s career at the club, but also raises questions surrounding the likes of Morgan Sanson – who signed for the club in January for £14,000,000 – and whether John McGinn would have less of a prominent role in Aston Villa’s midfield. Alternatively, it could mark the end of Trezeguet’s Aston Villa career when he returns from injury – as imminent signing Emiliano Buendia could battle with Bertrand Traore for the right-wing berth while a current member of Aston Villa’s midfield, likely John McGinn, could play in a more prominent role, with Ross Barkley returning to his parent club Chelsea after his loan.
There will come a point where former fan-favourites are likely to depart, with their services required less often by the club, as the B6 side continue to progress in the Premier League.
It’s certainly looking like Aston Villa’s summer business is hotting up, and quickly.