Aston Villa manager Dean Smith morphed into Pep Guardiola during his side’s 1-1 draw against Leicester City in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final on Wednesday night, well from a tactical perspective that is!
Guardiola played a false number nine during Manchester City 3-1 win against Manchester United in their own semi-final clash on Tuesday – and Smith followed suit by also playing his own number false nine to the surprise of the fans at the King Power Stadium.
It was a clear sign that Smith needs a striker through the doors of Bodymoor Heath this month, and whether the individual puts pen-to-paper this week or on deadline day, he needs to be the perfect fit.
There have been many names, both home and abroad, who have been touted to make a switch to Villa Park. Here we will take a look at three strikers Smith should target this month.
Aleksandar Mitrovic – The Fulham hitman fits the bill in every sense, other than the fact that the bill Villa would have to pay for him would be pretty hefty. Over the years, Mitrovic, who has played in England’s top-flight both with his current club and Newcastle, has matured as an individual.
As a result, he has become a more deadly weapon in the final third – he guided Fulham to promotion via the play-offs when they beat Steve Bruce’s Villa in the play-off final in 2018. And despite the London club dropping straight back down, he did score 11 league goals [transfermarkt] for a team that struggled from the off.
His ability to play up top on his own, work a whole backline, drop deep, find space in the six-yard box, score with his head and both feet would make his signing one that would keep Villa in the Premier League. But Fulham are in the play-offs and even a big fee for the player might not be persuasive.
Fernando Llorente – This could both be a long stretch, or a signing that could actually happen. Llorente, who played for Tottenham last season, is currently in Italy playing for Napoli. The Serie A side have been engulfed in some problems this season.
The Independent reported in November that Napoli were planning on taking legal action against its own players, as Carlo Ancelotti, who is now the Everton boss, was sacked by the Italian giants last month despite guiding them to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
All of his helps Villa because all doesn’t seem well in Naples, and whilst Smith’s side aren’t guaranteed anything, there is nothing to lose in trying to sign the experienced hitman, who would bring the best out of the likes of Jack Grealish, Anwar El Ghazi and Trezeguet. Not only that, if Villa feed him then he can score vital goals. But he’s playing for a club in the Champions League, so it would be tough.
Olivier Giroud – This is the one that the Villa Park faithful perhaps want the most. He is everything Villa need. But would he want to move from Stamford Bridge into a relegation fight?
The Express & Star have previously claimed that Giroud is their ‘prime target’ – with Danny Drinkwater now signed on loan from Chelsea, it now means that the Midlands outfit can only sign him on a permanent basis, which does make it slightly harder.
Either way, Giroud is a very underrated talent and there is a reason why he played every game of France’s World Cup win despite not scoring a goal. He is highly intelligent, can score some spectacular goals and someone who can bring the best out of any top talent. If he were to sign then it would be a very, very good transfer window for Villa.