The Aston Villa transfer enigma in Bertrand Traoré

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Under A Gaslit Lamp

Article image: The Aston Villa transfer enigma in Bertrand Traoré

Aston Villa’s interest in Bertrand Traoré has been questioned – we try and delve deeper to understand the player.

Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy


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Aston Villa’s interest in a forward that scored four goals and assisted five in thirty-five appearances across all competitions last season has been questioned – and fans are worried that their club, who have had relative successes within the transfer market, is about to make a relatively expensive mistake at just shy of £20,000,000.

Bertrand Traoré, a Burkina Faso international, has split opinion amongst the fan base due to his unfortunate circumstances that have left his Olympique Lyonnais career stalling. He has also played for Ajax and Chelsea in his career. His time at Chelsea was what caused the London-based club their transfer ban as the side misled the FA about important dates related to the then 18-year-old’s signing, appearances without registration, the length of his contract and payment to the player’s mother to ensure that they had first refusal over his signature.

Chelsea also paid for Traoré to attend the £20,000-per-year Whitgift School in Surrey, allowing the player to gain a strong grasp of the English language and receive a better education.

Aston Villa fans are worried for a number of reasons – in that Traoré’s numbers aren’t ‘exceptional’ and that Lyon fans are happy to see the forward leave. It’s been well shared in recent days that Lyon were also happy to see that back of John Carew – a deal that turned out well for the B6 side.

Lyon fans are happy that Traoré is leaving due to his failure to recapture his debut season form, in which the forward, who can play anywhere across the front three, managed an impressive return of 17 goals and five assists across all competitions for the Groupama Stadium side. Since that season, Traoré’s contribution to the side has lessened as campaigns have passed, and his role in the squad has turned to that of an impact substitute or a makeshift right-back.

Leo Dubois is a firm-favourite on the right-hand side and Karl Toko-Ekambi is also ahead of Bertrand as an attacker, meaning that his oppurtunities have been limited. When Rudi Garcia decided to not use Traoré in Olympique Lyon’s un-expected Champions League run this summer, it was clear that he was no longer being counted on. There’s also the need for a significant fee to come for players this window, and more-so a non-starter like Traoré, as Lyon did not qualify for European Football this season and their financial situation is turning sour. The sale of the Burkina Faso international means they are then less likely to need to sell a star like Memphis Depay.

The under-utilisation of Bertrand Traoré comes with faults from both the player and the club. Whilst Maxwel Cornet has adapted and shown that converting from an attacking player to a forward-thinking defender is possible with the right attitude, Traoré has struggled. Traoré grew complacent after his debut season and was caught out by a number of coaching changes at Lyon.

Bruno Genesio used the forward regularly until he left in May 2019, and was followed by Sylvinho’s ill-fated spell. Garcia arrived as somewhat of a fireman for Olympique Lyonnais, and although Traoré benefited under the failed tenure of Sylvinho, Garcia made it clear that his plans did not involve him.

There was a desire for greater consistency and a harder work ethic at the Groupama Stadium, which goes a long way towards explaining why Traoré failed to win back a starting role in the squad. His time at Ajax was plagued with similar issues, and despite his instrumental role in the Dutch giant’s 4-1 dismantling of Lyon in the first leg of the 2016/17 Europa League Semi-Finals, hopes were tempered as inconsistency was, somewhat ironically, consistently on show.

After his bright start, Lyon found that they had encountered the same problems as Ajax had.

There has been an issue with inconsistency on the wings at Villa Park, especially in the side’s return to the Premier League, with both Trezeguet and Anwar El Ghazi flattering to deceive at times. Whilst Traoré has been labelled as inconsistent, french football expert and Aston Villa fan Jonathan Johnson believes there is a ‘good player’ in Traoré, but questions the transfer.

“I will be clear: Traoré can be very effective on his day.

“There is a good player in there somewhere, and there is the belief that a different coaching approach to that of Garcia’s, particularly mentally, could get much more out of him.

“However, I struggle to see the obvious logic in trying to solve a chronic lack of consistency out wide with another inconsistent performer.

“With Aston Villa chasing Milot Rashica, and with summer signing Matty Cash capable of playing further forward, it would not surprise me to see at least one of Anwar El Ghazi or Trezeguet allowed to leave.

“Based on his strong finish to last season, the Egyptian probably did enough to merit a second campaign at Villa Park, whilst patience is running thin with El Ghazi for similar reasons to Traoré in Lyon.”

One of Bertrand Traoré’s big selling points is his pace, something that Dean Smith was quick to address his side had a lack of at the end of the last season. On his day, he can carry the ball well and likes to link-up in attack, favouring a cut inside – too much at times – and he offers a useful outlet from set pieces and when shooting from distance.

His pace will allow him to re-adjust to the Premier League, and his trickery and dribbling will take some getting used to for defenders early on in the season.

“Early impressions will probably draw comparisons with Newcastle United’s Allan Saint-Maximin, minus the Gucci headband.

“His limited repertoire and questionable decision-making have earned him a reputation for being somewhat predicatable.

“He has the makings of a good player and the problem has never been his ability, it is largely a question of consistency and his application to task – which has been badly lacking in recent seasons.” admits Johnson.

Traoré’s role in Ajax’s win over Lyon, when the forward was playing for the Dutch Giants, is a strong example of what he can do when he is at his best – but his Lyon career has shown how important it is to keep the 25-year-old motivated.

He showcases improved statistics when played in a central role, which was his position at the beginning of his career, and many believe that he is most effective as a second striker – perhaps something that John Terry recalls from their time together at Chelsea.

In the current market, as it has been for years, transfer fees are generally over-inflated – but when considering Aston Villa’s opening offer for Bertrand Traoré, the amount that Lyon initially wanted and how much Aston Villa have been looking to spend on new signings, Johnson believes that the deal is coming in at a fair price.

“I feel that 20,000,000 euros is at the limits of a fair price.

“Taking into account the current economic situation in Ligue 1, notably for an Olympique Lyonnais side out of Europe for the first time since the 1990s, and not to mention Traore’s diminished role, Lyon will feel this is a very good business.

“It lessens their need to sell their absolute top talents for lower prices – but I will also say that considering the similar reported fees, I am surprised that Villa did not move for Brentford’s Said Benrahma before Traoré.”

With Lyon in dire straits, Premier League clubs are likely looking towards Lyon for potential bargains this summer, and there are other potential options that could or should have been considered above Traore, Johnson thinks.

“I would be noting Jeff Reine-Adelaide’s deteriorating relationship with the club and making a move for him, despite last year’s very serious injury – he remains a talented player and one that I am confident would succeed at the right club.

“Saint-Etienne’s Denis Bouanga and Lille’s Jonathan Ikone are two other Ligue 1 based talents I would be keeping tabs on too.”

The major issue with Traoré is most obviously his inconsistency, but with Dean Smith having a proven track record of improving players at both Brentford and Aston Villa – this could be something the club are considering, however by taking a look towards Anwar El Ghazi, it could potentially be another signing that frustrates, rather than sending fans into furore.