The transfer market has been kind to Aston Villa in recent times. In Ollie Watkins, Ross Barkley, Bertrand Traore, Matty Cash and Emi Martinez, Dean Smith made five additions to his squad in the summer window with all five living up to their billing over the first half of the season. Now, Villa look set to enter the market again.
Morgan Sanson has completed a move to Villa Park in a deal reported to be worth €18m.
But what will Sanson offer Smith? After all, Aston Villa already boast a strong midfield platform in Barkley, Douglas Luiz and John McGinn, with Jack Grealish ahead of them. These four players have been key to the club’s rise up the Premier League table this season and so it will be difficult for Sanson to break into the first team.
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Back at the start of the month, when the January window opened, Smith spoke about “good value opportunities” and how Villa would only move for the right player at the right price. Paying €18m for a player who was reportedly valued at around €30m as recently as the summer certainly looks like a good value opportunity.
Sanson could have left Marseille before the start of this season, but stayed to play in the Champions League. Now that Marseille are out of the competition, and out of Europe altogether, the 26-year-old appears to have made the decision to move on, encouraged by a club that could use the money after the spectacular collapse of Ligue 1’s new €3.25 billion TV deal.
The midfielder, who spent four years at Montpellier before joining Marseille in 2017, is a box-to-box operator. Sanson is a productive attacking force, registering five goals and four assists in 27 Ligue 1 appearances last season.

Marseille's French midfielder Morgan Sanson (C) shoots and scores a goal during the French L1 football match between Strasbourg (RCSA) and Marseille (OM) on November 6, 2020 at the Meinau stadium in Strasbourg, eastern France

Image credit: Getty Images

While Sanson does drift in and out of games, he is an effective presser of the ball and is a very capable passer. Smith has turned Aston Villa into one of the most dynamic sides in the Premier League this season and in this sense Sanson would be a good fit. He wouldn’t have to adapt his game too much and could hit the ground running.
As a number eight, Sanson is most comfortable, but his versatility means he can also play as a number 10. This versatility will give Smith the option to rotate his squad without much of a drop-off in the quality on the pitch. Sanson could be key in keeping Aston Villa in contention for a top eight, or even top six, finish.
Sanson is most comfortable in a 4-3-3 system and so this could give Smith another way to shape his midfield unit. This formation would eliminate the role of a number 10, but with Grealish so natural at cutting inside off the left it’s possible this approach could work for the skill set of Aston Villa’s current squad.
Having spent all of his career to date in Ligue 1, Sanson needs a change to take his game to the next level. Some believe the 26-year-old could have aimed higher than Aston Villa, but the fact the former France Under-21 international won’t even be an automatic starter for his new club underlines how far Smith’s side have come this season.
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