Aston Villa have been linked with a move for Lens midfielder Cheick Doucoure this summer, but is he the ideal solution in that area for Dean Smith?
It’s been a busy summer for Villa thus far, with Emiliano Buendia, Ashley Young, Leon Bailey, Danny Ings and Axel Tuanzebe arriving as we look to kick on from last season and compete for a place in Europe.
While those additions address key issues in the current squad, be it adding depth or replacing what we’ve lost with the departure of Jack Grealish, there is arguably still a glaring position in the side that needs to improve.
One criticism of Villa that remained consistent throughout the last campaign was that we were missing solidity and a physical presence in midfield to run the show and help us not only dictate the tempo and possession but to also help us secure a foothold in games.
As per the Daily Star, Villa are said to be interested in Doucoure and have opened talks with Lens, while it is now suggested that it’s unlikely that we will make an improved offer for Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse.
So, if Doucoure does arrive to fill that void, will he be the answer to our problem and a genuine upgrade on what Marvelous Nakamba provides us with in that deeper, defensive midfield role?
Doucoure stats, style of play and scouting profile
Doucoure, 21, has racked up 95 appearances for Lens having come through the youth system, while he has been capped seven times by Mali.
At 1,80m and given his frame, he has proven to be a real presence in midfield for the French outfit, where he is used in his natural position of a defensive midfielder.
As a right-footed midfield player, he could bring an important balance to an expected partnership with John McGinn, while his attributes allow him to make an impact in both phases of the game.
Those strengths are on display in the video below, as Doucoure is a vital cog for Lens in terms of his defensive work in front of the backline, as he covers ground quickly and is physically imposing to win back possession regularly for his side while he isn’t afraid to put himself about and get stuck into a tackle.
Further, his athleticism and impressive distribution also allow him to break forward and start attacks, be it through dribbling the ball and progressing up the pitch or playing quick, vertical passes through the lines to find his attacking team-mates.
There are many midfielders who fit this mould on the market and it seems like an important asset to have in any side now if you want to be successful at the top level.
Doucoure certainly looks like a highly-talented player that will only get better if he is coached right and gains experience against top opposition, and if Villa do make their move and secure a transfer, he could be the missing piece in the side that will help us impose ourselves in games and continue to play an attractive brand of flowing and attacking football with a dynamic frontline to fire us forward.