Aston Villa European Scouting Considerations for Premier League

By Liam Scahill

Eurothrash or Eurostars?

Greetings from the chasms of the My Old Man Said scouting department, defying straitened circumstances in the form of relegation from the Premier League meant us scouting freaks were victims of fevered exoticism from MOMS HQ and banished to the basement of the facility alongside Dr Tony Xia themed merchandise.

With the Transfer Rumour Gods being in benevolent mood and linking Villa with every player with a pulse, we are back with a raucous bang. MOMS HQ knows one thing for sure, Villa have a book of around 50 players they have been actively scouting and monitoring for their Premier League return.

So sit back relax and get ready to search Youtube for some juicy ‘Skillz and Goal’ vids of some lesser known players that perhaps-perhaps-perhaps Jesús García Pitarch, Dean Smith and Villa’s recruitment team have been scouting the continent for and could or should take a punt on.  

So, are these players Eurotrash or Eurostars?

Téji Savanier

This mercurial serendipitous talent from Ligue 1 has spent the last few months flummoxing, bamboozling and generally bewildering defences in France with a newly promoted side in the form of Nîmes Olympique. 

Playing an almost quarterback-type role in deep midfield for Les Crocodiles, Savanier has orchestrated an impressive tally of 14 assists and helped himself to six goals whilst enjoying a breakthrough season of eminence at the spritely age of 27-years-young. 

Unlike most deep lying midfielders, Savanier offers a multitude of attacking eloquences, which really have to been seen to be believed. So where has he been till now? 

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His career to date has seen him employed as a playmaker behind the striker in a number 10-type- role, but as the sands of time have passed, the skilful wizard has slowly dropped deeper and deeper in the playing ranks into a more ‘regista’ positon.

Like our own Conor Hourihane, the man hailing from the Montpellier suburb of Gély is a dead-ball specialist, over a dead-ball Savanier is akin to a matador without a cape ushering a Blitzkrieg upon opposition defenses with his laser like pinpoint deliveries.   

Téji’s rise to prominence should not really be a surprise given the man of Romani roots came through Montpellier HSC’s much-lauded youth set-up, which was ordained as a ‘golden generation’. The midfield dynamo played alongside Younès Belhanda, Rémy Cabella, Jonas Martin, Abdelhamid El Kaoutari and Benjamin Stambouli in 2009.

Unfortunately, Montpellier unceremoniously decided not to offer the lifelong supporter Savanier a professional contract, meaning Téji tactlessly missed winning the Ligue 1 Conforama title with the club’s senior team in 2012. 

After licking his wounds, Savanier made the switch to the south-coast with Arles-Avignon in Domino’s Ligue 2, working his way into the first team and he quickly became the side’s dead-ball specialist. When the club were relegated at the end of season 2014-15, he signed for Nîmes Olympique.

Today, Savanier is hot property and maybe too hot for us folk in B6 and Nîmes Olympique alike. When a player in a defensive midfield role affects a European league with a mere brushstroke of his left foot against the ball with such heart-soaring perfection, instinctively a plethora of potential suitors come circling.

Verdict:  Eurostar (unfortunately maybe not for the Villa at this junction).

Wout Weghorst

Villa recently encountered the mass blanket-like defense of West Brom during their playoff quest and for large spells in both semi-final games, it looked like there was going to be no breakthrough.

In retrospect, maybe the challenge presented by James Shan’s Baggie charges could have been circumvented far easier with some good old fashion brute force.

Let us present to you a giant goal-hungry Dutchman, Wout Weghorst, standing at a gorgeous voodoo like height of 1.97m or (6 Ft. 6 In), Weghorst offers a direct option in front of goal that would have many a former Villa manager purring with glee. 

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Logically, Weghorst maybe not quite a Dean Smith-like signing but nevertheless Wolfsburg’s latest goal-scoring sensation warrants attention.

The colossal center forward appears to be following in the footsteps of the club’s former prolific frontmen Edin Dzeko and Bas Dost.

With an impressive tally of 17 goals in 34 matches. The serial goal-getter has been a godsend for Wolfsburg this season especially when you consider the toothless Wolves only managed a mere 36 goals throughout the whole of the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign. 

Villa at times in the coming season will face elite Premier League opposition boosting an array of attacking talent, and will need more than their new signing Wesley Moraes. An option of a towering big man to hold the ball upfront could prove to be a valuable asset when they need to clear their lines.     

Weghorst already has tentative Villa links of sorts in that he once famously beat Ron Vlaar’s Villa shirting wearing mate Michael van Gerwen in a leg of darts, hitting an impressive two 140s along the way. The hulking striker is a lot more than a battering-ram, he endows his teammates with work rate and link-up play. 

His talents have not gone unnoticed and the giant forward won his first cap for the Netherlands in a friendly against England back in March 2018.

Verdict: Eurostar who could prove to be an old-fashioned center forward like Eurobargain.

Miha Zajc

Miha Zajc is a Slovenian footballer with a capacity for sorcery and offers a splash of footballing celebration colour, the X-factor dimension he offers would sit nicely within a Dean Smith playing philosophy.

The latest 24-year-old Balkan creator like our own Super Jack plays in an attacking-midfield role for Turkish side Fenerbahce.

The excitable footballing talent arrived in the January Transfer this year, perceived as Empoli’s crown jewel. His sudden departure from the Italian side raised a few eyebrows from Serie A connoisseurs, after being widely tipped for a massive future in many quarters of Italian football. 

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Heralding from the Slovenian town of Sempeter pri Gorici, right at the Italian border, Miha Zajc was always destined for a career in Italy. He is no stranger to the dynamics of relegation and promotion having experienced both during his time with Empoli.

Zajc is so comfortable with the ball that often his natural born blaze of brilliance leaves both teammates and opponents alike gape-jawed at his brilliance. There are times when the old maxim about football being a simple game are undeniably true, and in this instance, Zajc is quite simply a footballer of significant creative ability.

Villa are now well endowed in the number 10 ranks with both Grealish and the recent arrival of Jota from our close friends across the city. Nonetheless, can a club ever have enough dynamic true natural footballing talents at their disposal?

Verdict: Eurostar a prospective unearthed gem, whether Villa are in a position to take many recruitment risks is the problem.  

André-Frank Zambo Anguissa

A Cameroonian athletic defensive midfielder who tasted relegation with former Villa nemesis Fulham this season. Anguissa arrived on English shores last summer from Marseille as part of The Cottager’s lambasted mass recruitment drive and it was his time in France that we’re judging him on.

On a frantic last day of business Fulham broke their transfer record with the purchase of Marseille’s dynamic talent, for a fee widely-reported to be in region of £30m.

Anguissa like our own former charge Idrissa Gana Gueye cannot be solely held responsible for his team’s insipid Premier League demise. 

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The Cameroonian powerhouse has looked a million miles off the pace in recent months, meaning he naturally became somewhat of a Fulham fan go-to scapegoat, given the massive transfer fee he demanded.

Anguissa did impress in his first season, as a regular starter during the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season, starting 21 Ligue 1 games for Rudi Garcia’s side aiding the club’s run to the Europa League Final.

Retrospectively, Fulham, grossly overpaid for the player (we’ve all been there), who endured a miserable debut season in England. 

At just 23-years-old Anguissa’s career is not yet ready for the death knell, with the right tutelage the player could undergo a metamorphosis and flourish in the English game.

The number crunchers at Fulham will naturally want Anguissa off the books as quickly as possible given the looming spectre of the EFL Profit and Sustainability rules coming up on the horizon.

A perfect storm for a cut-price deal that suits all parties, perhaps?   

Verdict: Eurothrash that could be salvaged.  


Follow Liam on Twitter at @LiamScahill 

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  1. Moraes looks a good acquisition but untested in the PL , but at the same time Tammy Abraham’s did not do well with his premiership venture so who knows, personally another player untested is Maupay but I believe we need him as well, albeit a lot of money, must be worth the risk, can’t see Austin fitting in with our team or our style of play so I hope the rumours are fake news.

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