Aston Villa have named Bjorn Engels as their eighth signing of the summer, with the Belgian also becoming the fourth centre-back to make the switch to Villa Park after Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa and Kortney Hause completed moves from Bournemouth, Brentford and Wolves respectively.
The gigantic defender spent last season on loan at French outfit Reims, where he was a crucial part of their surprising eighth-placed finish having been promoted to the top flight the previous season, and will be hoping that he can have a similar impact with Premier League new boys Villa.
Recently-relegated Fulham embarked on a similar spending spree to the play-off final winners last season, splashing in excess of £100m on new players to no avail – the Cottagers finished with a lowly 26 points in 2018/19 – and Dean Smith will be hoping that his Villans side won’t go down a similar route.
It’s crucial that each of these additions improves the side in some way as making so many changes to a team who performed so well last season is always risky; what can Villa fans expect to see from Engels in 2019/20? Read on for the three key stats that illuminate what the latest arrival is all about…
Having players who are adept at winning the ball in the air is essential as some teams in the bottom half rely on big strikers to create opportunities such as Ashley Barnes and Glenn Murray. Therefore, Smith could be able to help Villa withstand that threat with his physical defenders.
At a towering 6 foot 4, the 24-year-old Engels is an imposing presence on the pitch and the prospect of a pairing with 6 foot 5 Mings should strike fear into Villa’s opposition.
Alternatively, a partnership with former Wolves man Hause, who won an astonishing 4.7 aerial duels last term, would almost completely negate any long balls.
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Despite his frame, Engels is surprisingly good with his feet and can be relied on to play the ball out from the back instead of just playing it long.
Possession was important to Smith’s side’s success last term, with the Midlands outfit averaging a 53.4% share of the ball and controlling play in their opponents’ half. Engels’ ability to stride out from defence and find a teammate will be an asset when teams are sat deep in an attempt to suffocate the likes of Jack Grealish and Anwar El Ghazi.
While Engels’ tackling ability certainly needs some work – the behemoth at the back makes just 0.3 tackles per game – he is good at reading the game and stepping out of defence to cut out the ball, evidenced by his 1.3 interceptions per game last term, which is more than any Villa centre-back in 2018/19.
This combined with his impressive passing accuracy indicates that he will be important in winning the ball back for his side before setting a teammate away on the counter or hitting a long ball up to fellow new arrival Wesley who, at 6 foot 3, is a big enough target to hit.