Aston Villa were handed a major boost on Tuesday night as midfielder Morgan Sanson stepped up his comeback from injury with 45 minutes for the U23s side.
The 27-year-old missed a significant chunk of the end of last season after picking up a knee injury, and he has subsequently spent the summer working his way back to full health.
After disappointingly missing out on our pre-season schedule, he has been well behind the rest of the squad in terms of fitness and availability, but there have been a growing number of positive signs in recent weeks.
From his presence in first-team training with the rest of the group, to now featuring for the Villa U23s against Wycombe in midweek, it appears as though the Frenchman is on the verge of being available to Dean Smith once again.
Injury a real blow, but Sanson return will be huge
To date, Sanson has played just 291 minutes of football for the senior Villa side after his move from Marseille in January.
Naturally, the process of settling in a new country, squad and league would have been difficult enough in itself, but add his injury on top of that, and it would have complicated matters significantly.
Nevertheless, it’s hoped that time spent on the sidelines has given Sanson the opportunity to fully adapt and adjust to life in England, study to improve his game and to continue to work on his fitness moving forward.
We saw with his first-half assist against Wycombe what he can offer to the side with a burst forward from midfield and a through ball to Cameron Archer to find the back of the net, while he has the tenacity and combativeness to get stuck into a tackle too, as evidenced by his three yellow cards in just nine games last season.
It’s arguably the general consensus amongst those Villa fans who aren’t entirely pleased with our transfer window that the missing piece was a midfielder, but having spent £16m on Sanson in January, as per the Guardian, he is evidently a big piece of the puzzle for Smith and shouldn’t be forgotten.
Last season, Sanson featured in central midfield in 17 out of his 21 appearances both for Marseille and Villa, and so whether it’s in a two-man midfield alongside either John McGinn or Douglas Luiz, or perhaps partnering that duo in a three-man midfield, Sanson is going to be a pivotal addition to the equation when fully fit.
There is no guarantee that he is the absolute solution and will bring the exact characteristics and attributes that this side is currently missing, but he’ll certainly be influential and it’s hoped that he’s ready to stake his claim after the international break and showcase his talent and quality on a regular basis in a Villa shirt.