Why Aston Villa should sign Nabil Bentaleb to replace John McGinn
According to The Times (h/t Liverpool Echo), former Tottenham midfielder Nabil Bentaleb has been offered to several Premier League clubs, including Aston Villa and Everton, with the Algerian currently sidelined from the first-team mix at Schalke in the German Bundesliga.
The report adds that the 25-year-old Algerian international is keen to complete a move back to English football, having parted ways with Tottenham to join Schalke on a permanent deal back in 2017
Bentaleb, who made 66 appearances for Spurs in all competitions during Mauricio Pochettino’s reign in North London, initially joined Schalke on a season-long loan deal in the summer of 2016 before making his stay permanent.
The Algerian midfielder made a promising start to life in Germany and played a substantial role for Schalke in his first three seasons but things have turned sour for him over the past year or so, with the 25-year-old demoted to train with the U-23s due to disciplinary issues, including his failure to report for German lessons. (Time h/t Liverpool Echo)
Bentaleb, who scored thrice in Schalke’s UEFA Champions League group stage campaign last season, is yet to make a single first-team appearance for the club this term. The Algerian’s relationship with manager David Wagner apparently seems damaged beyond repair, thus prompting the German club to find potential suitors to cash in on him.
The report only clarifies that Schalke have offered the midfielder to Aston Villa and Everton but it remains to be seen whether either club is genuinely interested in acquiring his services after such a significant fall in grace over the past twelve months.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa currently find themselves just above the relegation zone in the Premier League after accumulating only 6 wins in 21 games so far and Dean Smith’s side clearly have a lot of work to do in the coming months if they are to preserve their status as a top-flight club.
The Villans looked set for a quieter transfer window in January after spending a fortune to fund a massive squad overhaul this past summer that marked the arrival of as many as 12 players at Villa Park.
However, injuries to key players, Tom Heaton, John McGinn and Wesley Moraes, have dealt a massive blow to their bid for survival in the Premier League, and some immediate action might have to be taken by the recruitment panel to plug the gaping holes.
Perhaps, the long-term injury to McGinn comes as the worst piece of news to the club faithful, given that the Scottish international had been one of their most influential performers in the middle of the park during the first half of the campaign in the Premier League.
With the likes of Marvelous Nakamba, Henri Lansbury, Douglas Luiz and Conor Hourihane all very much in the mix and the club also moving to secure Danny Drinkwater on loan, Smith has other options at his disposal to fill in the void left by the injury to McGinn.
However, it is well-documented that neither of those aforementioned players has the perfect set of attributes to contribute equally in terms of attack and defence. Drinkwater joins as a proven player with a lot of experience but his career has been in a downward spiral since his departure from Leicester City. Moreover, he is nowhere near McGinn in terms of creativity.
Indeed, Aston Villa would need to search high and low to find a replacement for a player of McGinn’s calibre, but if the recent transfer development is to be believed, the Villans could have a golden opportunity to plug that hole with a deal for Nabil Bentaleb- a player who seems to have a similar kind of balance in his game and certainly the right set of attributes to fit into the shoes of the influential Scotsman at Villa Park.
Bentaleb never really set the stage on fire during his stint at Tottenham but he showed strong signs of promise to suggest that he does have the raw materials to excel in English football. It is true that he didn’t get enough opportunities to express his talent in the Premier League but his quality had been there for everybody to see.
To that end, the Algerian international’s previous experience on the English shores means that he could well make an immediate impact should a move to Villa Park materialize in January. That he hasn’t played a lot of football in recent times could spark concerns regarding his fitness levels but Bentaleb could well be a useful addition to Villa’s midfield ranks.
Bentaleb’s tally of 19 goals and 9 assists in 97 appearances for Schalke lies testament to his talent as a goalscoring central midfield with a lot of creativity, while his average of 1.3 tackles and 1.4 interceptions in the Bundesliga last season is enough to show that he also has the defensive work rate to complement his skill set further up the pitch.
The Algerian certainly has a lot of room for improvement at the age of 25 and Villa should ideally look at a loan deal in January with the option to make the move permanent at the end of the season, subject to whether they manage to beat the drop in the Premier League.
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All in all, Dean Smith playing a gamble with a loan deal for Nabil Bentaleb could go a long way towards sorting out a nagging issue in the middle of the park for relegation-threatened Aston Villa.