Manuel Locatelli won plenty of admirers for his displays at Euro 2020.

Locatelli played a key role in Italy's tournament triumph, including two goals against Switzerland.

The former Milan midfielder has established himself with Sassuolo over the past two seasons in Serie A and is now on the radar of several leading European clubs.

 

TOP STORY - LIVERPOOL HIJACK LOCATELLI PURSUIT

Liverpool have joined Juventus and Arsenal in the race to sign Italy international Manuel Locatelli , reports 90min.

The Reds are close to making their opening bid for the Sassuolo midfielder who helped Italy win Euro 2020.

Liverpool are looking to replace Georginio Wijnaldum who has left for Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Aston Villa have countered Manchester City's £100million bid on Friday for midfielder Jack Grealish with a club-record contact offer, reports The Daily Star. The deal is believed to be worth £200,000 per week.

- Real Madrid are set to act fast on replacing Manchester United-bound Raphael Varane, with a €60m move for Villarreal defender Pau Torres, according to El Gol Digital.

- Granit Xhaka may stay at Arsenal despite strong links with a transfer to Roma, with the Gunners strongly considering a new contract offer for the Swiss midfielder, reports The Athletic.

- Hector Bellerin is close to exiting Arsenal, with his agent flying to London for talks with the Gunners about a move to Inter, claims Calciomercato. Inter are looking to replace Achraf Hakimi who left for Paris Saint-Germain.

- Sport1 claims that Liverpool have been unable to meet Borussia Moenchengladbach's €40m (£34m) asking price for midfielder Florian Neuhaus but remain interested.

Jack Grealish could soon be a Manchester City player.

The Premier League champions have long been linked with the Aston Villa captain who, along with Tottenham talisman Harry Kane, reportedly represents City's top target as Pep Guardiola looks to add further creativity to an attacking unit which is already the envy of European football.

On Friday, reports emerged that City had lodged a £100million bid for the 25-year-old, who helped England reach the final of Euro 2020 earlier this month.

City and Villa both refused to comment on the rumours. 

As speculation continues, Stats Perform has assessed what Grealish could bring to City, should the deal – which would be a Premier League record – go through.

 

THE NUMBERS

Grealish played 26 times in the league last season, missing 12 games towards the end of the campaign due to a shin injury.

He scored six times, adding 10 assists. His 70 chances created from open play was 26 more than any other Villa player, and only seven shy of Bruno Fernandes' league-leading 77.

When counting chances created in total, including from set plays, Grealish (81) ranked third in the league, behind Mason Mount (87) and Fernandes (95), though they played 10 and 11 games more than the Villa captain respectively.

Grealish outscored his expected goals tally of 4.65, while only Harry Kane (14), Kevin De Bruyne (12) and Fernandes (12) supplied more assists.

The playmaker, who often played on the left flank for Villa, attempted 110 dribbles, tallying up a success rate of 59.09 per cent, the seventh-best out of Premier League players to attempt 100 or more dribbles.

 

HOW HE COULD FIT IN

Capable of playing centrally or wide, Grealish will add another high-quality, versatile option to Guardiola's already packed squad. His 81 chances created leads the way out of City and Villa players from last term, with De Bruyne (80) a close second.

No Villa or City player attempted or completed more dribbles than Grealish, whose ability to carry the ball into dangerous positions and then release a timely pass will surely be a big draw for Guardiola, though he will want sharp, snappy passing to be brought into the midfielder's game.

Based on City's current options, Grealish would likely be competing with De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez – though several of those players have been linked with moves away – for a place in the team, either as a central midfielder or a wide attacker in the champions' preferred 4-3-3 system.

Of those players, only De Bruyne played more passes, including crosses, into the penalty area – the Belgium star doing so on 239 occasions – than Grealish. However, he was some 90 ahead, while playing one game less.

Grealish's shot count of 50 ranked him fifth out of those seven players, with his shot conversion rate of 12 per cent also the fifth-best.

De Bruyne (7.4 per cent from 80) and Silva (7.14 per cent from 28) had a lower conversion percentage, though logic would suggest Grealish will have more opportunities to shoot in a City team that managed 599 attempts last season, 79 more than Villa's total.

 

HOW WOULD VILLA MANAGE?

Should Villa collect £100m, they would be well placed to reinvest, but there is no doubt Grealish would be a huge miss for Dean Smith's team.

Villa have gone some way to mitigating the damage a potential transfer would cause, with Emiliano Buendia – a creative fulcrum for Norwich City last season – arriving earlier in the transfer window.

Ashley Young has made a return to Villa Park on a free transfer from Serie A champions Inter, while Villa also made several bids for Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe before the 20-year-old signed a new deal with the Gunners.

Leon Bailey, Bayer Leverkusen's flying winger, has also been linked. The Jamaica international scored 15 goals and provided 10 assists in 40 appearances last season, and his arrival would certainly soften the blow somewhat, though there is a chance he may need time to adapt from the Bundesliga.

Bailey created 63 chances in total, with 11 of these classed as "big chances" – Grealish, by comparison, created 14 big opportunities in league football in 2020-21.

While Villa would certainly have to adapt, the options they could pursue with £100m to spend would present an opportunity for significant upgrades elsewhere in the squad as Smith looks to push for European qualification.

City, meanwhile, would be bringing in one of English football's best talents, with Grealish having the opportunity to head into his prime years at one of Europe's biggest clubs.

Kieran Trippier has one year remaining on his Atletico Madrid contract.

The England international has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United.

It has been reported that Trippier wants to return to England, having left Tottenham for LaLiga in 2019.

 

TOP STORY - TRIPPIER TO WAIT ON UNITED MOVE

Manchester United target Kieran Trippier is willing to wait until late in the transfer window to secure his move, reports the Telegraph.

Atletico Madrid full-back Trippier is said to have set his sights on a move to United, who have already been busy in the transfer market by launching moves for Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

The report claims Trippier is prepared to sit tight and wait for United to raise the funds required to put together a move for the 30-year-old former Manchester City junior.

 

ROUND-UP

- Aston Villa are ready to restart talks with Jack Grealish about a new deal next week as Manchester City begin to ramp up their interest, according to the Express and Star.

- Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma is being lined up by West Ham,  with a proposed £20m bid set to be tabled, according to the Daily Mail. It had been reported Zouma may be used in a deal for Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

- Barcelona are lining up a second bid to sign Juventus defender Cristian Romero after having had a player-plus-cash deal turned down, reports SportItalia. Tottenham are also keen on Romero.

- Celtic could make a move for ex-England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who is currently on Tottenham's books, says BBC Sport.

It seems clear that Paul Pogba will not remain at Old Trafford for the long haul.

Also clear: Paris Saint-Germain's interest in the France midfielder.

The big question that remains to be answered is the timing of a potential move for the Manchester United man.

 

TOP STORY – PSG WEIGH UP POGBA OPTIONS

Paris Saint-Germain are interested in a move for Paul Pogba but are still debating when to make their bid.

According to The Athletic, PSG have begun discussions to determine Pogba's interest in a move but have not made a formal approach to United.

While the report says a bid is expected within the next few weeks, it remains a possibility that PSG could wait until Pogba is out of contract in 2022 and deal with the player directly.

Jack Grealish has been linked with a move away from Aston Villa in the past, and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is a known long-term admirer.

Grealish is currently on holidays after Euro 2020, but talks of a huge transfer to City have not gone away.

Could the Premier League champions be about to make their move?

 

MAN CITY SET TO TABLE GREALISH BID

Manchester City are set to officially commence their move for Aston Villa's Jack Grealish with a £75m bid, claims the Daily Mail.

According to the report, Villa will hold out for £100m for their star England international.

Villa have no desire to sell Grealish for anything less and will know Guardiola is keen to secure his services.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea have opened talks with Sevilla about potentially signing French centre-back Jules Kounde, according to The Guardian. The 22-year-old has a release clause worth €80m (£68.4m).

- Arsenal have enquired with Inter about star forward Lautaro Martinez, reports the Telegraph. It is believed Inter may be willing to sell the Argentina striker for €90m (£77m).

- Eurosport reports that West Ham are interested in a move for Manchester United defender Phil Jones who has struggled with injury in recent times.

- Newcastle are closing in on a deal for Arsenal's Joe Willock, and it could be finalised  within the next 48 hours after his loan stint last season, claims Mail Online.

- Liverpool may sign Wolves' Spanish winger Adama Traore in a cut-price £30m deal, according to the Star.

Jack Grealish was the player England fans wanted to see during Euro 2020.

Now a move to a bigger Premier League club might be on the cards.

Grealish is reportedly moving closer to leaving Aston Villa.

 

TOP STORY – CITY EYE GREALISH SWOOP

It seems increasingly unlikely Aston Villa will be able to hold onto Jack Grealish.

The England winger has agreed to personal terms with Manchester City, according to a Football Insider report.

Though he grew up a Villa fan and has spent his entire career with the club, save for a season on loan to Notts County, Grealish is in demand among the Premier League's big-money clubs.

City reportedly are preparing a £90million offer that would be difficult for Villa to refuse.

ROUND-UP

- With Paul Pogba and Manchester United at a stalemate in contract talks, the Telegraph says Paris Saint-Germain believe they can sign the midfielder with a £43million bid.

- Alexandre Lacazette is entering his final year under contract with Arsenal but the Gunners are ready to move on. According to the Sun, they are hoping to net £15m for Lacazette after paying £52m to sign him four years ago.

- Arsenal remain interested in a move for James Maddison, reports the Mirror, and they could explore a swap deal with Leicester City to get it done.

- PSG want to keep Moise Kean on a permanent deal after his year on loan from Everton, but Juventus also are interested, Le 10 Sport reports.

Jack Grealish's refusal to shy away from wanting the ball is a talent that makes him "outstanding", according to former Chelsea and Italy star Gianfranco Zola.

The Aston Villa captain led his side to an 11th-place finish in their first season back in the Premier League, before enduring a quiet summer for England at Euro 2020, where he managed two assists across 173 minutes of action.

Grealish was streaks ahead in terms of creativity last term, creating 70 chances in the Premier League from open play – 26 more than any of his team-mates and just seven fewer than Bruno Fernandes' league-high 77.

Those figures translated into 10 assists for Dean Smith's main man – making him joint-fourth in the league with Son Heung-Min - despite his expected assists being just over 6.5.

A former number 10 himself, Zola is a fan of Grealish and what he offers to both Villa and England.

"I really like Grealish for his courage and his initiatives. Maybe sometimes it could be hard to give him a tactical task because he likes to be creative in every part of the forward front.", Zola told Stats Perform.

"But he always creates something important and, again, he never flinches. He always wants the ball and creates. These are qualities that will make him even more outstanding."

Grealish's ball carrying does not solely create chances from open play either, given he won the most fouls in the final third (41) – seven more than nearest competitor Wilfried Zaha – and regularly offers Smith's side opportunities from set-pieces, too.

Villa (62) ranked third in the league in terms of chances created from set-pieces behind Manchester United (64) and Chelsea (68), which means Grealish's direct running offers another facet to the Villans' attack.

The 25-year-old midfielder may want to add goals to his game, though – while he did net six times last campaign, the positions he gets himself into suggest he should be scoring more.

Contrastingly, however, Grealish outperformed his expected goals (4.65), therefore criticism of his finishing may seem a tad harsh and unwarranted.

With Smith at the helm and with Grealish hopefully staying at Villa Park, Zola saw reason for optimism amongst the Villa faithful.

"Aston Villa are not a random club. They have had a great season and ended in the left part of the table, always improving.", the former Azzurri forward added.

"They have a very good manager that is making the squad grow."

A Liverpool stalwart might make an early exit from the club.

Jordan Henderson is under contract for two more years and is said to want an extension.

But talks have reportedly not progressed, potentially opening the door for outside suitors.

 

TOP STORY - HENDERSON COULD LEAVE ANFIELD

Completing a new deal for Henderson is reportedly not a priority for Liverpool's ownership this off-season, and The Athletic says a move could be on the cards for the England international.

The report cites Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino as a long-time admirer of the midfielder and notes Henderson's close friendship with Atletico Madrid's Luis Suarez as potentially weighing in favour of a move to one of those clubs.

Liverpool are said to be eager to get something in return for Henderson, should he leave, after watching Georginio Wijnaldum move to PSG on a free transfer last month.

 

ROUND-UP

- If the rumoured swap deal that would send Saul Niguez to Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann to Atletico falls through, the Daily Mail reports that Liverpool and Manchester United could swoop for the 26-year-old Spaniard.

- Raphael Varane's expected move to Old Trafford is gaining momentum, as Fabrizio Romano reports the Real Madrid centre-back has told United he is "ready" to accept their contract offer should the clubs agree to terms.

- Tottenham are set to acquire Pierluigi Gollini from Atalanta on loan through next season with a €15million option to make the move permanent, says Romano, and Football London reports Atalanta defender Cristian Romero also is in talks to join Spurs.

- Manchester United's Donny van de Beek could be headed to Barcelona on loan, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Villarreal are the leaders to sign Arnaut Danjuma away from Bournemouth, the Sun reports, with Villa and Southampton also possibilities for the Dutch forward.

- Burnley winger Dwight McNeil is Everton's top transfer target according to the Mirror, though the Liverpool Echo says Aston Villa may also be in the mix.

Cristiano Ronaldo's future has been widely discussed this off-season.

The 36-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner has only one more year on his existing Juventus contract.

Ronaldo has been linked with several suitors among Europe's elite clubs as well as a switch to MLS after Juve failed to win the 2020-21 Serie A title.

 

TOP STORY - RONALDO SET TO EXTEND JUVE STAY

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to remain with Juventus amid talk of a new cut-price deal, reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

The Portugal international has attracted interest from Paris Saint-Germain and former club Manchester United this off-season.

However, Ronaldo is close to extending his Juve stay with a fresh one-year contract, taking a pay cut.

 

ROUND-UP

– Manchester City are determined to sign Aston Villa's Jack Grealish, according to The Athletic, although the Birmingham Mail claims the England winger is expected to sign a new deal at Villa Park.

– The Sun reports Inter are ramping up their bid to sign Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin on a one-year loan deal with the option of a permanent switch.

– Real Madrid have not received any offers for Gareth Bale, who is expected to remain in the Spanish capital for another season, according to Mundo Deportivo.

– Goal claims Juventus have had their initial €30million offer for Manuel Locatelli rejected by Sassuolo, who have a higher price in mind.

Arsenal are set to land Brighton's Ben White, having agreed to a deal in principle, worth around £50m, reports The Athletic.

England goalkeeper Tom Heaton has joined Manchester United on a two-year contract.

Heaton, who won the last of his three international caps in 2017, was available on a free transfer after his contract expired at Aston Villa.

The 35-year-old began his career at Old Trafford, graduating through the youth ranks and spending 13 years on the club's books.

He did not make a first-team appearance and embarked upon several loan spells before joining Cardiff City in 2010.

He arrived at Burnley via Bristol City, with his career taking off under Sean Dyche. Heaton played 188 league games for the Clarets and earned all his England caps while at Turf Moor.

A serious shoulder injury saw him lose his place for club and country to Nick Pope, while Heaton's injury curse struck again midway through his first season at Villa in 2019-20 when he suffered anterior crucial ligament damage.

"For me to have the opportunity to come back after spending 13 great years here as a kid, it’s an incredible feeling and I’m really, really excited to get started.

“I'm just seeing it as a fantastic opportunity as I still feel I’ve got an awful lot to give and I’ve got the bit between my teeth.

“I'm looking forward to hitting the ground running. I feel in great shape and I’m looking forward to coming in to compete with the other goalkeepers."

Heaton is likely to begin the season as third choice, with David de Gea and Dean Henderson vying for the number one spot under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Sergio Romero's departure

Of goalkeepers to have played 100 or more Premier League games since the start of the 2013-14 season, Heaton has the seventh-best save percentage at 70.7. De Gea is fifth on the list (71.6 per cent), with Pope (73.9 per cent) top.

Kylian Mbappe has long been linked with a blockbuster move to Real Madrid.

Mbappe is out of contract at the end of next season and is yet to re-sign in Paris.

Madrid are reportedly preparing their next steps in an attempt to recruit the France international.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STEPPING UP MBAPPE INTEREST

Real Madrid are hoping to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe after Euro 2020, according to the front page of Friday's Marca.

Marca detail Madrid's timetable to prise Mbappe from PSG in the report, with Los Blancos focusing on a post-European Championship transfer.

Mbappe – also linked with Liverpool – is out of contract at the end of the 2021-22 season.

 

ROUND-UP

Cristiano Ronaldo's future remains undecided and it is blocking Juventus' plans in the transfer market, according to Tuttosport and Corriere dello Sport. Ronaldo has been linked with PSG and Manchester United as Juve eye Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli.

- The Sun claims Jack Grealish's agent expects the Aston Villa captain to join Premier League champions Manchester City. The England international has previously been linked with United, who are believed to be closing in on a deal to sign Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho.

Arsenal are nearing a deal to sign Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White, reports Goal. Brighton are demanding around £50million for the England international, who has also reportedly attracted interest from United and Liverpool.

- Sampdoria midfielder Mikkel Damsgaard is wanted by Barcelona, Milan and Tottenham, says Marca and Sport.

Milan and Inter are both looking to sign Barca goalkeeper Neto, according to Sport. Neto has served as a backup to Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

- Tuttosport reports Inter have opened negotiations with Sassuolo for Giacomo Raspadori, while the Serie A champions are also interested in Lazio's Manuel Lazzari.

The Premier League's big-money clubs are circling for Aston Villa's Jack Grealish.

The England midfielder is drawing interest from multiple suitors keen to lure him away from Villa Park.

Could a move be on the cards after the Euros? 

 

TOP STORY – BLUES WANT GREALISH

Chelsea are strong contenders to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, Football Insider reports. 

The England international has also drawn interest from Manchester City, but the Blues' involvement could change the dynamic. 

Football Insider claims owner Roman Abramovich has approved the type of expenditures that would be necessary to land players like Grealish, and winning the Champions League will only loosen the reins on Chelsea's spending. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Kylian Mbappe wants to move on from Paris Saint-Germain, according to RMC Sport, which says the France international will depart on a free transfer when his contract expires next year if he does not move during this window. 

- Lionel Messi's long-anticipated new contract with Barcelona could be announced as soon as Thursday, according to Le 10 Sport. 

- If Man City are to complete a deal to land Harry Kane from Tottenham, they will need to do it without using Raheem Sterling in a swap deal. Sterling has no interested in joining Spurs as part of the reported £100million move for Kane, ESPN said. 

- Sergio Ramos plans to join PSG, AS reports, spurning interest from City and Manchester United

- Chelsea see Villarreal's Gerard Moreno as a fall-back option if they cannot sign Erling Haaland, according to Fichajes. 

- Milan are looking at Rafinha of PSG as a potential addition as Hakan Calhanoglu moves on, Calciomercato reports. 

- England defender James Tarkowski is drawing interest from Wolves and West Ham, the Telegraph reports, while the Mail says Leicester City also are eyeing the Burnley man. 

- Scott Parker is set to depart Fulham and become Bournemouth's new manager, The Athletic reports. 

European champions Chelsea and French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain have both been in hot pursuit of Achraf Hakimi.

Morocco international Hakimi, 22, helped Inter win the Serie A title.

The former Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid full-back is a star on the rise.

 

TOP STORY – HAKIMI AGREES TO CHELSEA MOVE

Chelsea appear to have won the race for Inter defender Hakimi after he "verbally agreed" to join the European champions, according to Calcio in Pillole journalist Ekrem Konur.

Konur claims Inter want £43million (€50m) and full-back Marcos Alonso from Chelsea as part of the deal.

Footmercato reports PSG will table a second bid for Hakimi worth €70m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United have made their move for Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane with a £50m (€58m) bid for the French defender, claims the Manchester Evening News. It is alleged Madrid want £80m (€93m) for Varane.

- Roma will turn their attention to Aston Villa's Brazilian midfielder Douglas Luiz should they fail to sign Arsenal's Granit Xhaka, claims Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Football Insider reports Everton are keen to pursue Wolves defender Conor Coady.

- Wolves are weighing up a move for ex-Chelsea forward Diego Costa , who is a free agent, according to UOL.

Aston Villa have signed Ashley Young on a free transfer following the winger's exit from Inter.

Young has agreed a one-year contract at Villa Park, a decade after departing the club for Manchester United.

The former England international spent four and a half years with Villa during his previous spell and made 190 appearances in all competitions.

Villa confirmed Young's arrival on their official website on Thursday and the versatile wide player added: "It feels amazing to be back, it feels like I've not left.

"I'm just delighted to be back, seeing some old faces, being back at the training ground, seeing the facilities and how well they've grown.

"You can see how much the club has evolved since my time and I'm just ready to get down to work now."

Young featured 34 times for Scudetto winners Inter in the 2020-21 campaign, including 26 outings in their successful Serie A campaign.

He scored one goal – coming in last month's 5-1 win against Udinese – and set up four more in the Italian top flight last season.

Prior to joining Inter, Young won the Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Europa League with United.

The 35-year-old is Villa's second signing of the close season following the club-record capture of Emiliano Buendia last week, while it has been reported they had a bid in the region of £25million for Emile Smith Rowe rejected by Arsenal.

Aston Villa have confirmed the signing of Emiliano Buendia from Norwich City in a club-record transfer.

The Midlands club saw off competition from Arsenal to sign the 24-year-old for a fee believed to be in the region of £35million with a further £5m of add-ons also included in the deal.

Reacting to the news, Villa manager Dean Smith told the club's official website: "Emiliano has just completed an outstanding season in a Championship-winning Norwich side with 31 combined goals and assists and was named Player of the Season across the league.

"He is equally capable as a wide attacker or as a number 10 and is a great addition to our attacking options. We are delighted to have made such an exciting signing so early in the summer and look forward to Emi joining up with us for a full pre-season."

As Smith alludes to, Buendia was named Championship Player of the Year for his part in Norwich's successful promotion a year after dropping down from the top flight.

And, while £35m may sound like a significant fee for a player whose most recent campaign was in the second tier, it is easy to see why Buendia has commanded such an outlay.

Impressive despite relegation

When Norwich were relegated last year, it was a widely held belief that they had several players who were likely to stay in the Premier League by joining other teams.

While Ben Godfrey was sold for approximately £25m to Everton and Jamal Lewis moved to Newcastle United, Norwich managed to keep hold of their other major assets: Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons and, perhaps crucially, Buendia.

That they were able to resist the sale of Buendia was arguably the most surprising of all, considering he had enjoyed a promising debut campaign in the Premier League.

His ability to find and exploit pockets of space made him a real creative nuisance and something of an anomaly as well, given he – a player in a relegated team – was up there with the league's best in key creative metrics

 

Buendia created 55 shooting opportunities in open play in 2019-20, a figure that only Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Sadio Mane could better. He was level with Mohamed Salah and ahead of Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva, among others.

His seven assists, only one of which came from a set-piece situation, was another notable feat, and his 6.2 expected assists (xA) figure suggests he was not benefiting from astonishing luck throughout the season either. He was simply a very effective creator.

Learning on the job

It would have been easy to write Buendia's Premier League season off as a fluke. There must have been those expecting him to endure a disappointing 2020-21 back in the Championship, perhaps a consequence of not getting a move away.

After all, he did have a spell out of the Norwich team in 2019-20, with Norwich boss Daniel Farke suggesting there were concerns over his work rate and lack of goals.

"Believe me there is probably no-one here in this room who knows [better] how good Emi is and how big his potential is," Farke said in February 2020. "If he is just there with 95 per cent [effort] then it was definitely possible to bring him back [into the team] at Championship level and he could still make the difference.

"But at this [Premier League] level, let's be honest when he is not 100 prepared — you could realise it at Newcastle when we brought him in. Not to accuse him but our game looked poorer when we brought him in.

 

"When I think about his ability to assist, he is already there with seven. It is perhaps not world class on this level for a winger, but for our level it is top class and it is the best of all our players in these terms. Let's be honest, we've had the 26th game day and he is there with no goals. There are several losses of the ball and also sometimes he lacks running in behind."

But Buendia stuck around, seemingly accepting he still had plenty to learn, and his improvement in front of goal has been notable.

In the Premier League he averaged just 1.46 shots per game, but he has more than doubled that frequency to three every 90 minutes in the Championship, likely a consequence of the fact he has spent more time in the central areas of the pitch and closer to the penalty area.

 

As a result, his goals haul shot up from one to 15 and his xG of 11.8 shows that, while he may have been lucky on occasions, he would still have expected to reach double figures. Even if you take into consideration the drop in quality from the Premier League to the Championship, that is still a commendable improvement and highlights his willingness to take on criticism and use it to better himself.

Creating his own luck?

Buendia's even greater tendency to work centrally seemed to benefit his creative talents as well. As shown in his xA map, many of his 16 assists came from the middle vertical of the attacking half.

 

Granted, he has outperformed his 9.3 xA (open play) by approximately seven, which is significant and suggests some of those assists have benefited from particularly good finishing or a slice of fortune, yet his overall xA of 12.4 is still at least four more than any other player in the Championship this term.

Similarly, his 93 key passes in open play was – remarkably – 31 more than anyone else in the division.

 

It will be intriguing to see what role Buendia is deployed in at Villa and whether both he and Grealish are compatible in the same side. Even if they line up on opposite flanks, they will want to do much of their work in similar areas as they drift inside.

But regardless of any potential teething issues, Buendia looks set to be another smart acquisition by Villa – and potentially the one who got away for Arsenal.

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