By George Overhill

6th May, 2023 | 9:10am

Aston Villa transfer news as Unai Emery sets sights on Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic as part of ambitious summer haul

Unai Emery has big plans to add at least one goalscorer to the ranks at Aston Villa this summer, and the latest name in the frame is Serbian international Dusan Vlahovic.

According to The Telegraph on 5 May: “Aston Villa are considering ambitious moves for Dusan Vlahovic, the Juventus striker, and Barcelona winger Ferran Torres in the summer transfer window, Telegraph Sport understands.”

In selling Danny Ings to West Ham in the January window the Villains lost 13 league goals of production in his 18-months at the club, for a player who was increasingly in and out of the side once Steven Gerrard and then Emery replaced Dean Smith.

In going for Vlahovic they appear to be targeting a player who is even more like to leading man Ollie Watkins, with FBRef putting the Serie A star as the number one comparison across the top five leagues over the past year, even if Ings is fifth.

In terms of output, the 23-year-old’s goal return has definitely dipped since his move from Fiorentina to the Allianz Stadium midway through last season, but over the period that Ings spent at Villa Park the Serb more than makes up for that threat, scoring 24 league goals for the two sides combined last season before adding six more prior to the window earlier this campaign.

He also missed the best part of two months action either side of the World Cup with injury issues, so that number might otherwise have been higher, suggesting he would be an major upgrade on Ings if Watkins stays at Aston Villa.

When it comes to a comparison between Vlahovic and Watkins, the England man’s production this season has surpassed the Serbia international, but their per-90 statistics in goals, assists, XG (expected goals) and XAG (expected assisted goals) are remarkably similar.

Watkins’ 14 league goals from just over 1,000 more minutes than the Old Lady striker’s nine average out to 0.01 difference per 90 (0.45 Watkins to 0.46 Vlahovic), although his six assists compared to two is notably higher (0.19 to 0.1).

Their XG and XAG are identical per 90 at 0.11 and 0.56 respectively, although Vlahovic’s stats are effected to a slightly greater extent by penalties taken (three to one)

While Watkins, four years Vlahovic’s senior, has had an excellent season compared to last year his 2021/22 campaign comes nowhere near the younger man’s.

His 11 league goals was significantly inferior to Vlahovic’s 24, who had a much more efficient season, suggesting the Serie A man was due a drop in numbers sooner or later.

Watkin’s goals per 90 (0.34) is almost exactly correspondent to his XG per 90 (0.35), while Vlahovic’s goals per 90 (0.74) is well above his XG per 90 of just 0.56).

Although close, Watkins is marginally the more involved in the play over the past two seasons, both offensively and defensively, but there is one element where Vlahovic has a higher number across his time at Fiorentina and Juventus – he always takes more shots.

The number has narrowed significantly this season to 2.5 per game over 2.4, but last season his 3.6 at for the Viola and his 2.9 with Juve both were well up on Watkins’ 2.2.

There are notable similarities between the two statistically, but with Vlahovic a number of years younger and a year removed from a breakout season he likely has the greater upside going forward.

He’s sure not to be cheap, having cost an initial £58million two January windows ago, but if Aston Villa are guarding against a Watkins bid from elsewhere it could make sense perfect sense as a replacement, and the pair would make an impressive top two options if the 23-year-old were to join the senior forward in the Midlands.

In other Aston Villa news, one bargain target can save the club millions for investment elsewhere in the squad and still have a major impact.