Less than a fortnight into the January transfer window and Aston Villa have flexed their financial strength to capture the elite level of Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne.
The pair, who were teammates for a brief period at Barcelona, have 106 international caps and 72 Champions League appearances between them, with Steven Gerrard being the major driving force behind both deals.
Here, Birmingham Live How will Digne and Coutinho affect the rest of the squad and who are the winners and losers with their respective arrivals…
You have to start here with the boss, who chatted with both players before making their announcements.
Coutinho swapped Barca for Birmingham, looking to play under his friend and former Liverpool teammate, while Digne was blown away by the manager’s offer to take Villa to the next level.
Gerrard, 41, previously explained how the January market was not there to make the wholesale change, but, in just two weeks to us, he’s been backed by Nassef Saviris and Wes Edens.
The squad has started shaping up nicely now and there are one or two more deals to be done this month.
Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings
Now, only a certain Trent Alexander-Arnold has created more chances as a defender since Digne’s arrival in the Premier League in 2018. The Frenchman has made 18 assists in 113 Premier League games for Everton, while Matt Targett has chalked out just five. His 83 appearances at the villa.
As far as Coutinho is concerned, everyone is aware of his ability to score and score goals and, if there are two players who will benefit the most from their chances of being placed at the plate, it is Danny Ings and Olly Watkins.
In truth, the final third has been lacking in quality in recent weeks and the arrival of Digne and Coutinho will give Watkins and Ings a more clinical edge.
The two should lick their lips at the prospect of Digné hitting the balls from the left and passes as Coutinho slips into tight areas with scoring high on the agenda.
Douglas Luiz and Morgan Sanson
Thinking outside the box with this one but Douglas Luiz and Morgan Sanson will benefit massively from the players they know well around them.
Douglas has played for Brazil with Coutinho. The pair are both from Rio and are big supporters of Vasco da Gama. Coutinho’s English is also very good, and this will help Douglas, who still needs a translator during team meetings.
As for Sansson, he will be pleased with the arrival of fellow countryman Digne, who played with him for France’s Under-21s and against them during their fight in Ligue 1.
Sansson, who looks set for his first start since Boxing Day this weekend, has already given his approval to sign Digne, saying: “Welcome my boy!”
It would be fair to say that the Villa Dressing Room is a better and happier place with Coutinho and Digne.
And finally the two additions to the club itself send a powerful reminder to the rest of the Premier League that Villa means business in 2022.
Villa have recently been forced to keep two goalkeepers and academy players on their bench, and now, they can finally add depth to their squad due to related injuries and players being at AFCON.
It feels like a big turning point, a watershed moment if you wish, given the caliber of players Villa can draw with Gerard on top.
It sounds like the beginning of something special, it really does.
One clear knowing Digne is likely to drop Matt Targett from the starting XI.
Target’s performance is nowhere near the level he did last season knowing he was voted Villa’s Players of the Year.
Hopefully, the improved level of competition will help Target rediscover its form. The left-back was close to England’s call-up last season, let’s not forget that.
Bertrand Traore and Trazeguet
Given Coutinho’s arrival, it is difficult to see where Villa’s two African wingers fit in. Gerrard has two No. 10 supports behind the central striker and that’s what it looks like from here.
Traor cannot catch a break at the moment after testing positive for Covid at AFCON, while Trezeguet is still fighting to rediscover the sharpness of his match after eight months with a knee injury.
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Leon Bailey may also find it difficult to find a way back into the team after the expected return from a thigh injury next month. However, Villa spent £30 million on Jamaica and Gerrard informed Birmingham Live That winger was the player who impressed him the most during the manager’s first few training sessions.
Gerrard took a look at Trior and Trezeguet in Villa’s defeat at Brentford, in which the pair were buoyant. It now remains to be seen whether he is given more playing time when he returns from AFCON in February.
And it’s hard to finally make a good case for Everton after Digne’s £25m sale, leaving Toffees fans unhappy to learn they’ve sold one of their better players to a direct rival.
There is no doubt that Digne will take the field at Villa Park after proving himself over and over again in three and a half years at Goodison Park.
Everton forked £21 million to land Vitaly Myokolenko as Digne’s replacement at left-back – but there is no assurance the 22-year-old Ukrainian will be hit immediately.
As far as Digne is concerned, Everton’s loss is Villa’s advantage, as Rafa Benitez did not help his position, as the public was with his Frenchman.
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