Aston Villa Opinion: Wesley Moraes and Lewis Dunk could be the marquee signings that the Lions need to ensure Premier League survival
According to The Sun, Aston Villa have broken their club-record fee by forking out a staggering £22.25 million to complete the signing of Brazilian striker Wesley Moraes, with reports claiming that the 22-year-old is set to pen a five-year deal at Villa Park in the next 24 hours, subject to international clearance and work permit.
The Sun understands that Villa beat off competition from a number of clubs, including Bayer Leverkusen, Lazio and Guangzhou Evergrande, as well as Premier League outfits Newcastle United, West Ham and Arsenal, to finally get their hands on the coveted 22-year-old centre-forward.
Moraes was expected to be a hot property in the summer transfer window following his goalscoring heroics for Belgian heavyweights Clube Brugge this past season. The Brazilian registered as many as 17 goals and 10 assists in 48 appearances across all competitions, playing a key role as Clube Brugge finished runners-up to Genk in the Belgian top-flight.
Dean Smith was under pressure to sign an out-and-out centre-forward following the return of star loanee Tammy Abraham to his parent club Chelsea. Abraham netted 26 goals in all competitions this past season to propel the Lions to a promotion-winning campaign in the Championship, as Smith’s men overcame Derby County in the playoff finals at Wembley last month.
Abraham was an ever-present for Villa up front in the Championship but they needed to bring in a like-for-like replacement to cover for his departure and it looks like they have found one in Wesley Moraes. The Brazilian has been compared to former Villa hitman Christian Benteke and Man United striker Romelu Lukaku due to his towering 6ft. 3-inch physique, although he has a bit more flair and a touch of South American elegance to his game.
Noted for his supreme aerial prowess, intelligent movement, poaching instincts and incredible strength, Moraes also has the necessary level of pace, sharpness and agility to taste success at the highest level. The 22-year-old seemingly has all the attributes to fit seamlessly into the style of play prevalent in England and Villa would probably find themselves clear of the relegation zone if he manages to produce even half of what he did in Belgium this season.
Meanwhile, Wesley Moraes is not the only big name to be linked with a move to Villa Park, with Smith also plotting a sensational £30 million swoop for Brighton and Hove Albion and England centre-back Lewis Dunk as a part of his summer spending spree. (h/t Sun)
Dunk’s links with Villa is indicative of the fact that the Lions are looking for an overall squad upgrade in a bid to ensure survival in the Premier League and the towering centre-back is understandably the latest addition to the manager’s wishlist.
Villa have already struck deals for Birmingham City’s Jota, Wolves loanee Kortney Hause and Anwar El Ghazi, whilst having player’s like Matt Targett and Jack Butland on their shortlist. (h/t Sun)
Vulnerability at the back was a major concern for Villa in the earlier stages of this past season in the Championship before the acquisition of Tyrone Mings and Kortney Hause on loan in January transformed their backline into one of the most formidable in the division.
They have released players like Mile Jedinak, Alan Hutton and Tommy Elphick, and while that still leaves them with James Chester and Hause as viable options at centre-back, the Lions need to add more Premier League experience to their backline. And Brighton’s Lewis Dunk certainly fits the bill.
The 27-year-old 6ft. 4-inch centre-back is regarded as one of the best defenders outside the big-six in the Premier League and he certainly ticks the box in terms of experience as well, having racked up over 270 appearances for the Seagulls in all competitions over the course of 9 years.
Dunk perfectly combines the virtues of an old-school English centre-back and a modern-day ball-playing defender and it would be fair to say that he has been one of Brighton’s best players since their promotion to the top flight a couple of seasons back.
Villa probably won’t go all out to complete a permanent deal for Mings if they manage to sign Dunk this summer and one can get the feeling that the 27-year-old would be an upgrade on the Bournemouth man.
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Villa have already shown plenty of ambition in the transfer market upon their promotion to the Premier League following a three-year absence and it is a no-brainer that the arrival of marquee signings like Wesley Moraes and Lewis Dunk would go a long way towards securing their future in the top-flight.
A look at the scintillating performances of the PL’s new No.9s in gameweek 3 including West Ham and Newcastle stars
A look at the scintillating performances of the PL’s new No.9s
From Harry Wilson’s absolute stunner of a free-kick against Man City, Moussa Djenepo’s cracker of a finish in Southampton’s victory over Brighton to Harvey Barnes’ net-bursting half-volley, Round 3 of the 2018-19 season of the Premier League witnessed some magical moments of pure individual brilliance.
However, it was a weekend highlighted by some special performances from the new No.9s in the division, all of whom hit the ground running and played a key role in the victories of their respective teams, albeit a few were unfortunate to end up on the losing side.
Some of the big-money arrivals in the summer transfer window this term, including Sebastien Haller, Oliver McBurnie, Wesley Moraes and Joelinton, were prolific strikers from other leagues and to witness almost all of them coming to life for the first time in the Premier League was certainly a matter of uncanny coincidence.
While the more established centre-forwards like Jamie Vardy and Sergio Aguero continued to score for fun, let us take a look at how some of the new No.9s in the Premier League hit the ground running in Round 3.
1. Tammy Abraham
Abraham doesn’t fall in the bracket of a big-money signing but he definitely deserves a place in this list, given that the 21-year-old is a complete newcomer to the Premier League.
The academy graduate from Chelsea opened his account for the Blues in the top-flight with a brace in the 3-2 victory over Norwich City, thus playing a key role to hand Frank Lampard his first win as a manager in the Premier League.
Abraham’s first goal reflected his crisp technical finishing and subtle movement inside the box, while he reminded with his second goal that he is more than capable of beating defenders and finding the net from distance.
2. Oliver McBurnie
The 23-year-old Scottish international, who joined Sheffield United from Swansea City for a club-record £20million earlier in August, is yet to start a game for the Blades in the Premier League this term but he managed to find the net in the top-flight in his third consecutive cameo from the bench.
McBurnie, who came on as a second-half substitute against Leicester City on Saturday, outjumped the Foxes defenders inside the box and scored with a fine header off Chris Basham’s cross from the right to cancel out Vardy’s opener.
That, however, wasn’t enough, as Barnes’ electric strike later on in the second-half handed Brendan Rodgers’ side a 2-1 victory.
3. Wesley Moraes
The £22million signing from Club Brugge failed to deliver the goods in his first couple of games against Spurs and Bournemouth but he finally managed to hit the ground running in the Premier League this weekend, starring in the club’s 2-0 victory over Everton at home.
The 22-year-old pounced on a delightful through ball from Jota and kept his composure to make it 1-0 in the first half, although he contributed a lot more to that victory, including his work rate, hold-up play and slick link-up with the wide players.
Indeed, Wesley has arrived with a lot of expectations on his shoulders and the Villa fans will be hoping that he can make it a habit of finding the net on a regular basis this season.
4. Sebastien Haller
West Ham’s record £45million signing was pretty much quiet in the first couple of games but he came to life at just the right time for the Hammers, as the East Londoners registered their first three points of the Premier League this term with a 3-1 victory over Watford.
Mark Noble’s early penalty was cancelled out by Andre Gray’s strike but it was in the second half that Haller weaved his magic with some help from Felipe Anderson.
The Frenchman was at the right place and at the right time to put away Anderson’s inch-perfect cross from the left to restore West Ham’s lead before he pulled off an amazing spectacle – a brilliant overhead kick off a corner to make it 3-1 in favour of Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
The fans, though, will be hoping for that brace to be the beginning of many more to come from the talisman.
The Brazilian missed a relatively simple chance to score with his head in the defeat against Norwich City but he couldn’t have announced himself in the Premier League at a better time.
Newcastle’s record £40million signing scored the solitary goal in a 1-0 victory over Spurs, thus guiding the Magpies to their first-ever win against a big-six opposition since their return to the Premier League a couple of years ago.
Joelinton brought down Christian Atsu’s wonderful lobbed pass with an intricate touch and showed the composure to find a perfect finish past Hugo Lloris between the sticks, as Steve Bruce’s side got off the mark in the Premier League this term after defeats against Arsenal and Norwich.
Where will the 3 newly promoted teams finish this season? Can Norwich and Aston Villa beat the drop?
PL prediction: Where will the 3 newly promoted teams finish this season?
Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa are the three newly-promoted teams that have come into the Premier League this season.
Only once in Premier League history have all three promoted teams dropped straight back down, and that was back in 1997-98.
Furthermore, there have been three instances when all three promoted teams have survived, most recently in 2017-18, when Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town all retained their Premier League status.
All the three promoted teams this season – Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, have had contrasting starts to the campaign so far. That being said, let’s take a look at who will finish where in the table.
1. Norwich City – 12th
Daniel Farke’s Norwich City took the Championship by storm and confirmed their promotion fairly early.
During the summer transfer window, the Canaries made some interesting signings in Sam Byram, Patrick Roberts, Josip Drmic and Ralf Fahrmann. Clearly, Farke relies on those players who served the club well last season.
Norwich’s opener against Liverpool turned out to be a heavy defeat for the visitors as they lost 4-1 at Anfield. It could have been worse than that but thanks to goalkeeper Tim Krul, as he made a couple of outstanding saves.
But Farke’s side have shown great character to come back from the disheartening opening day defeat at Anfield. They defeated Newcastle United 3-1 at Carrow Road in their first home game of the season, with last season’s star Teemu Pukki scoring a fabulous hat-trick.
If Farke can be flexible with his tactics and get Pukki firing every weekend, the Canaries can certainly enjoy a respectable mid-table finish.
2. Sheffield United – 16th
After conceding the joint-fewest goals and keeping the most number of clean sheets in the Championship last season, Sheffield United are the most impressive defensive unit among the promoted sides.
The Blades have returned to the top-flight for the first time since 2007 and the plans have been laid down in order to stay at the top for a long period of time.
Having snapped up experienced defender Phil Jagielka on a free transfer following his release from Everton, Chris Wilder focused on bolstering his attack in the transfer window, with the likes of Lys Mousset, Oliver McBurnie, Callum Robinson and Luke Freeman arriving at Bramall Lane.
And to everyone’s surprise, they have enjoyed a really promising start to the Premier League campaign, picking up four points from the first two games. Wilder’s men drew 1-1 with Bournemouth before beating Crystal Palace 1-0 at home at the weekend.
If Sheffield United can make the Bramall Lane a fortress, chances of them beating the drop would become higher.
3. Aston Villa – 17th
Aston Villa beat Derby County in the playoff finals at Wembley to become the third promoted side this season.
Upon their return to the top-flight since the rock-bottom finish in 2016, they were one of the biggest spenders in the summer window as Dean Smith signed as many as 13 players.
The Villans released a number of experienced stars including Alan Hutton, Micah Richards and Glenn Whelan in order to reduce the squad’s age and pump in some fresh, young talents.
Despite reinforcing the backline, Aston Villa have conceded five goals in the first two games. There is a lot to improve for Smith’s side, who are yet to open their account in the points table.
Villa’s massive summer spending is risky and reminds us of Fulham’s approach last season after their promotion. The plan backfired and the Cottagers now find themselves back in the Championship.
Certainly, it won’t be a similar case as far as Villa are concerned, with Smith being a smart tactician. He also has assistant coach John Terry to somehow help the club in difficult situations. It’ll be a close shave, nevertheless!
2018-19 EFL Championship Rewind: 5 most thrilling encounters
2018-19 EFL Championship Rewind: 5 most thrilling encounters
Frantic see-saw promotion battles, brilliant individual performances, controversies on and off the field, edge-of-the-seat cliffhangers and goals galore – the 2018-19 season of the EFL Championship had everything in the locker for all sets of fans to rejoice, reminding one and all why the Championship is regarded as arguably the most competitive second-division league in the world.
While the likes of Aston Villa, Norwich City and Sheffield United ended the campaign on a high and secured their berths in the Premier League for the 2019-20 season, others like Leeds United, Derby County and West Brom tasted the agony of narrowly missing out on promotion glory in the playoffs.
However, all that is nothing but history now and with the 2019-20 Championship season set to kick off this weekend, it is definitely worth taking a look at some of the most thrilling encounters from the previous campaign.
1. Aston Villa 2-3 Leeds United – 23rd December
Operating in the upper reaches of the table and very much the favourites in the race for automatic promotion at that time, Leeds United made the trip to Villa Park on 23rd December high on confidence, having won each of their last five encounters in the Championship.
Up against a Villa side with a vulnerable backline, Marcelo Bielsa’s side were very much the favourites to stretch their winning run to six games in a row. However, the Lions roared early on their home turf and caught the game by the scruff of the neck to stun the visitors.
John McGinn’s bursting run set up Tammy Abraham for a neat close-range finish just 5 minutes into the game before Conor Hourihane’s beautifully-placed low curler into the bottom corner made it 2-0 for Aston Villa at the 17th-minute mark.
Leeds had it all to do after the interval and the Yorkshire giants fought back with two quick-fire goals within a span of five second-half minutes to restore parity at 2-2.
Half-time substitute Jack Clarke scored his goal for the Whites before Pontus Jansson’s header just after the hour-mark set up a tense finish at Villa Park.
Both teams missed scoring opportunities and Leeds had a shout for a penalty turned down, although it was the visitors who had the last laugh.
Kemar Roofe took advantage of a sloppy headed clearance from Ahmed Elmohamady and fired home his 11th goal of the campaign to complete a remarkable comeback and claim all three points for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
2. Leeds United 3-2 Blackburn Rovers – 26th December
If Leeds’ comeback victory against Aston Villa three days earlier was remarkable, then what followed at Elland Road on Boxing Day has to go down as simply awe-inspiring.
The Whites were on top of the standings in the Championship at that time and were pretty much the outright favourites to make it seven victories in a row against a struggling Blackburn side.
After a rather quiet first half-hour, it was Leeds United who took the lead, courtesy of an own goal from Rovers defender Derrick Williams, who sliced Jack Harrison’s cross into his own net.
That own goal, however, was cancelled out just two minutes into the second half, as Charlie Mulgrew converted from the penalty spot after being fouled inside the box by Leeds skipper Luke Ayling.
Blackburn Rovers looked to have won the game in the 90th minute when Mulgrew scored his second of the night from a long-range free-kick, putting Tony Mowbray’s side 2-1 up with just injury-time left to play.
However, the tides turned completely in the dying moments of the game, as Kemar Roofe once again emerged as the saviour and scored twice in the first and fourth minute of injury-time to complete an awe-inspiring comeback for the second time in a row.
3. Norwich City 4-3 Millwall – 10th November
Norwich City were very much one of the favourites for automatic promotion at that time and hardly anybody would have expected Championship strugglers Millwall to travel to Carrow Road and give Daniel Farke’s side a real run for their money.
Well, the game turned out to be an absolute edge-of-the-seat thriller, with four goals in the last 16 minutes, including two in injury-time, sealing the game in Norwich’s favour.
Tom Elliott headed past Tim Krul midway through the first half to put Millwall in the driver’s seat before Teemu Pukki’s neat close-range finish early in the second half restored parity for the home side.
Pukki then had a spot-kick saved after Onel Hernandez’s goal-bound effort was handled inside the box by Murray Wallace. However, the Canaries did take the lead midway through the second half, thanks to Moritz Leitner’s thunderous low drive into the Millwall net.
There was more drama to unfold at Carrow Road though, as quick-fire goals from Ryan Leonard and Jed Wallace made it 3-2 in favour of the visitors.
Norwich, however, had the last laugh in a thrilling contest as Jordan Rhodes’ equaliser in the second minute of stoppage-time followed by Pukki’s winner in the 97th minute ensured that the Canaries bagged all three points and prevented an upset.
4. Norwich City 3-4 Derby County- 29th December
Norwich managed to edge past Millwall in a gripping game at home in November but Frank Lampard’s Derby County ensured that they finished the year on a high with an astonishing comeback win at Carrow Road.
Norwich dominated the first 35 minutes and took a deserving 2-0 lead, courtesy of goals from Ben Godfrey and Teemu Pukki.
However, things changed dramatically in the last 10 minutes of the first half, as strikes from Chelsea loan duo Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount ensured that the Rams went into the interval with the scores level at 2-2.
Pukki restored Norwich’s lead nine minutes from time just before the floodlights in one section of the ground went out, forcing both the teams to head for the tunnel.
Taking advantage of the stoppage, Florian Jozefzoon levelled it up for Derby County in the 87th minute from a goalmouth scramble before Jack Marriott’s lovely dinked finish over Tim Krul sealed an exceptional comeback victory for Lampard’s side.
5. Aston Villa 5-5 Nottingham Forest- 28th November
This has to go down as one of the best free-scoring games in the Championship for quite a while, although Villa could only manage a draw against a 10-man Nottingham Forest.
Early goals from Lewis Grabban and Joao Carvalho handed the visitors a 2-0 advantage before Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham restored parity with a quick-fire brace, ensuring that the first twenty minutes of the game produced as many as four goals.
Matthew Cash made it 3-2 in favour of Forest but Abraham once again rose to the occasion to make it 3-3 before half-time.
Joe Lolley restored Forest’s lead for the second time in the game with a thunderous long-range effort but things went astray for Aitor Karanka’s side when Tobias Figueiredo was sent off. Abraham capitalised on the numerical advantage and headed it in from Jack Grealish’s cross to make it 4-4.
Anwar El Ghazi’s curling effort gave Villa the lead for the first time on the night but Lewis Grabban ensured with a near-post finish that the scores finished at 5-5.
Thus, an eventful night at Villa Park ultimately ended in a stalemate, with both teams keeping the fans on the edge of their seats with plenty of goals but neither doing enough to earn three points.
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