By Dan Carter

24th Jul, 2023 | 2:10pm

Time is right for Morgan Sanson to leave Aston Villa after Unai Emery evolution

Aston Villa midfielder Morgan Sanson is very close to leaving Villa Park having missed Unai Emery’s side’s pre-season fixture against Newcastle United, as shared by Birmingham Live’s John Towley.

Emery has confirmed that the Frenchman was close to agreeing on a move to depart Aston Villa after just over two and a half years with the club, having spent last season on loan with RC Strasbourg in Ligue 1.

Before heading to the French club on loan, Sanson only made two league appearances off the bench in the Premier League, the first against Manchester United for one minute of play and the second against Leeds for less than ten minutes of pitch time.

Few would have predicted when the then 26-year-old headed for Villa Park back in 2021 for a reported £16m with the expectation of competing with John McGinn and Ross Barkley for starting places, he would be quite as ineffective.

In the first half of the 2020/21 season, Sanson managed to notch up five goal contributions for Marseille from the heart of midfield and started four of their Champions League group games, bringing more than enough recent pedigree to excite the Villa faithful.

In France that year, his 1.4 key passes per game (Who Scored) made him an extra creative force in the middle of the park, but in his time with Villa, he has managed to only complete an average of 0.3 chance-creating passes per 90 minutes played.

On the ball, it can be viewed that his time in England has seen him become a better dribbler, with his 3.3 dribbles per 90 in the 2021/22 season a career-high, but he was also dispossessed at the highest rate of his career (2.6 times per 90).

A quick look at his FBREf scouting report demonstrates that for all statistical purposes, Sanson is the sort of slightly advanced midfielder that should fit in well with the Villa system, sitting in the 89th percentile for progressive carries, his style doesn’t differ too much from Jacob Ramsey’s.

But what is damning is how unproductive the Frenchman has managed to be when passing the ball, his 39.46 attempted passes per 90 put him in the bottom 25% of midfielders in Europe‘s big five leagues in the last year and the same is true of his pass completion rate.

Can’t be wasteful in possession

A quick look at Aston Villa’s stats for last season shows that against some of the bigger teams in the division, they often don’t have much possession of the ball, even if they are to get a result.

In wins over Brighton, Tottenham and Chelsea in the second half of the campaign, they had under 50% of the ball, with the victory away at Stamford Bridge producing a staggeringly low 31%.

However, this style of play that Emery has been so successful with throughout his career doesn’t necessarily suit players who attempt the spectacular and as shown by Sanson’s stats, he can be an excellent progressor of the ball, but it comes at the cost of sacrificing a lot of possession.

While his talent can’t be questioned, it’s not easy to see where he would fit in Emery’s system, and he is perhaps a victim of the multiple manager changes at Villa Park since his arrival.

It would be not surprising to see him excel once again wherever his future lies, but if that is to happen it won’t automatically mean that it was a mistake to allow him to depart Aston Villa this summer as ultimately, he just doesn’t belong with this side anymore.

In other Aston Villa news, a 17-year-old midfielder has joined the Villa squad on their American pre-season tour