Aston Villa are certainly starting to take shape under Unai Emery’s tutelage, but Sunday’s chastening 2-1 home defeat in the FA Cup to League Two outfit Stevenage was evidence that the work in establishing a platform for success is still very much unbalanced.
Emery, arriving in October to replace the dismissed Steven Gerrard, who lasted only 11 months in his first Premier League appointment as manager, has already injected an element of positivity into Villa Park, with three of the club’s six divisional victories this term coming under the five-match period he has taken the reins – starting with an emphatic 3-1 victory over Manchester United.
With discernible holes still weathering the Villa ship, several well-placed signings this January would go a long way toward providing the distinguished Spaniard manager with the tools to forge a top-half Premier League finish this term, perhaps even pushing for a coveted European spot.
A wide option of top-class quality will be integral in this endeavour, and Emery could return to his previous outfit, Spanish side Villarreal, to prise the talented dynamo Samuel Chukwueze to Villa Park.
Last month, Football Insider revealed that the Villans hold concrete interest in the whiz, and that if the opportunity arises to seal his signature this winter then the requisite moves will be made to bring him to England. That said, according to other reports, his asking price is a mighty €50m (£44m).
Chukwueze is a player that Emery indeed knows well, having made 94 appearances under the 51-year-old’s wing, scoring 14 goals and 15 assists.
This season, the 23-year-old has netted seven goals and six assists from 25 outings across all competitions for the Yellow Submarine, although only one goal and one assist have been plundered in the Spanish La Liga.
A breath of fresh air might do the world of good for the promising attacker, who won the 2020/21 Europa League under Emery’s tutelage.
As per FBref, the 24-cap Nigeria international ranks within the top 2% of attacking midfielders and wingers in Europe’s top five leagues for dribbles completed and the top 14% for touches in the attacking penalty area.
His transitional approach, utilising his pace and physicality to burst through enemy lines and provide multi-dimensional offensive support for his teammates, is exactly what Villa need in their pursuit of greener pastures, with wingers Anwar El Ghazi and Mahmoud Trezeguet both departing on permanent deals last summer.
Celebrated for his “explosive” nature and for being a “game-changer” – as per scout Jacek Kulig – he could form a brilliant partnership with Emiliano Buendia, whose own talent is unquestionable but execution has begged a few questions since his club-record £33m move to Villa from Norwich City in 2021.
Having only scored six goals and registered seven assists from 58 appearances for the Midlands outfit, Buendia is desperate for an upturn in proficiency and performance, with Sofascore recording his average rating this season at 6.89 in the Premier League this year; solid, if not spectacular, and that extra gear could finally see him prosper.
With Chukwueze adopting a wide position and likely flourishing in his ball-carrying role, Buendia could unleash the fleet-footed brilliance that brims from his core, finally replicating form that was forged in the Championship, where he won the Player of the Season with the Canaries following a title-winning campaign that saw him snatch 32 direct contributions from 39 appearances.
Footballing icon Samuel Eto’o lauded the “incredible” Chukwueze for his talents on the pitch, but did urge him to up the ante on his goalscoring form, and at Villa, with a growing pool of creative talent, his career could soar to the next level alongside the club’s Argentina maestro.