Dean Smith must be fuming at Johan Lange for his disastrous decision to sign Bertrand Traore for £19milion this summer, amid criticism of the midfielder from Aston Villa hero Gabby Agbonlahor.
Speaking with Football Insider, Agbonlahor has praised Smith for his decision to favour Conor Hourihane in midfield against West Ham United on Monday night over Traore in place of the injured Ross Barkley.
The Chelsea loanee was forced to sit out the Villans trip to the London Stadium after sustaining a hamstring strain in the first minute of the prior weekend’s 2-1 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion, but is in contention to make his return for the upcoming Midlands Derby with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Hourihane enjoyed 74-minutes on the field before being replaced by Traore as Villa chased an equalising goal, but Smith failed to see the 25-year-old register a single key ball from his nine accurate passes while completing one attempted dribble and taking one shot before the full-time whistle, per WhoScored.
Traore’s lack of creativity helped ensure Villa returned to Birmingham without a point, while stretching his wait for a maiden Premier League goal for the season and failing to build on his first assist achieved in the 2-1 loss at home to Brighton having replaced Barkley.
Agbonlahor believes Smith made the perfect decision by favouring Hourihane in the starting line-up against West Ham rather than Traore, as the £19m summer signing disrupts the balance Villa need in the engine room.
“With Hourihane, he came in and added that balance in midfield with John McGinn. He was a threat on set pieces, he kept the ball well and had a very good game,” Agbonlahor said.
“He added something to that midfield, and it was the better option adding Hourihane than Traore. Traore upsets the balance in that position.”
Agbonlahor slamming Traore for bringing chaos rather than balance to the core of the Aston Villa midfield will surely rile Smith, as Lange’s decision to splash an initial £17m on the Burkina Faso international had already failed to return many reasons for positivity.
Smith expected Traore to “really enhance our attacking options” when he lauded the 55-cap arrival from Olympique Lyonnais in the summer, describing the former Chelsea man as “a player with immense talent”.
But Villa fans are yet to see those words met on the pitch, with his assist at home to Brighton Traore’s only involvement in the scoring and having started just one of his seven Premier League appearances so far this season.
Defender Tyrone Mings has also registered the same number of key passes as Traore (2) in the top-flight this term, which is also three fewer than Hourihane who has played just 72 more minutes to date, per WhoScored.
Anwar El Ghazi even ranks just below Traore for successful dribbles with two to the 25-year-old’s three, despite playing just 35 minutes all season.
Lange will need to see Traore start delivering far above his current output for his decision to spend vast sums on the Chelsea flop not to appear any more of an absolute disaster than it so far has.