Sanson makes impressive return to starting XI in big boost for Villa

Setting aside the disappointment of Aston Villa’s 3-1 defeat to Chelsea on Sunday, one significant positive was the performance of Morgan Sanson.

The 27-year-old made his first Premier League start since April at the weekend, coming into the XI to replace John McGinn having had a string of appearances off the bench in recent weeks as he built up his match fitness and sharpness.

READ MORE: Five big talking points as Villa show positive signs but suffer defeat to Chelsea

The decision was made that the Frenchman was ready to feature against Chelsea from the first minute, and he didn’t disappoint as he produced a fine performance in both phases of the game.

Naturally, it was overshadowed by the result, but moving forward as Steven Gerrard looks to build on the start he’s had as Villa boss, it’s another boost for him in terms of having another top option at his disposal in midfield.

Gerrard wasted no time in insisting that he felt Sanson would be a ‘big player for us’, having stated that belief in his first press conference when the former Marseille midfielder was back from injury.

Now, he’ll hopefully have the opportunity show exactly why the Villa boss thinks so highly of him.

Sanson an all-round midfield presence for Villa

The strength of Sanson is that he’s more than capable of having an influence on the game in both phases.

As seen in the statistics below, he was important defensively with his tackling, reading of the play and his individual battles as he came out on top more often than not and gave us aggression and a bite in midfield to make life difficult for Chelsea at times.

In addition to that industry, tenacity and determination though, is the technical quality and class to be instrumental in our build up play, to break forward from midfield with a turn of pace or playing accurate passes into our attacking players to try and find a breakthrough.

It’s the speed of thought and tempo at which Sanson plays that is also key, as he doesn’t take too long on the ball and wants to move us up the pitch at speed to try and exploit any weaknesses that the opposition have in defence.

Sanson was really positive in his play all night before coming off, whether it was his probing passes trying to break the lines or to play in one of our frontmen in behind, or driving forward into the final third and opening the game up to ensure we were a threat to Chelsea.

It was an important night for him as after all the injury woes and setbacks he has suffered with since joining us back in January, he is hopefully now going to keep himself fit and healthy, and that in turn should give him an opportunity to now make up for lost time and establish himself as a pivotal figure in the Villa XI.

With John McGinn expected to return in our next game against Brentford on Sunday, it will be interesting to see what Gerrard opts for as off the back of his display against Chelsea, Sanson has certainly made a strong case to keep his spot in the side, but both Douglas Luiz and Jacob Ramsey will think the same after also putting in good shifts.

Perhaps with the Danny Ings-Ollie Watkins partnership still not firing, Villa could push Ramsey forward into a more advanced role on the left side instead and in turn open up a place in midfield for McGinn to return in. What is clear for now though is that Sanson is ready to showcase his quality and make a case to be a permanent fixture in the Villa side.

It has taken longer than perhaps most would have predicted and certainly would have liked, as the Frenchman joined us with a top reputation after his stint at Marseille and the talent that he possessed suggested that it wouldn’t take long for him to settle.

However, that didn’t account for the struggles he’s had with fitness as noted above, but having now had plenty of time to settle both on the pitch and in terms of his personal life with his family in Birmingham, it’s hoped that we’ll now start to see the best of him under a manager in Gerrard who clearly believes in him and is ready to make him a key part of his plans moving forward.

Furthermore, as a former world-class midfielder himself, there will hopefully be significant benefits for Sanson of having Gerrard as his coach, as it will surely have a positive influence on his game and on how he improves and evolves in the coming months.