The French Ligue 1 is a hot-spot for Premier League clubs looking to capture young and exciting talents at bargain prices and grabbing these unknowns has proven beneficial to many English clubs in the past. Famous for these transfers are Arsenal, who have been using the knowledge and influence of their French manager, Arsene Wenger to exploit a huge pool of quality players for the past twenty years. Inspired by the successes of former bargains the Ligue 1 has delivered, relegation troubled Newcastle United and Aston Villa have recently been throwing millions at clubs over the English Channel, but in doing so have invested a majority of their transfer budgets to no real avail.
The failed signings both Villa and Newcastle have made are economically and tactically damaging to both teams as a whole. In fact, eight players have arrived in the Midlands and the Tyneside over the past two seasons and all eight have failed to make any significant impact to either team whilst costing the pair a combined total of £62 million. This would make one think that signing players from Ligue 1 are now a waste of time, however looking at two of the signings of the season, Dimitri Payet and N’Golo Kante, who arrived from Marseille and Caen respectively; you would have to then question the scouting of the two struggling teams. Is it the two terrible transfer windows that have been a main factor in the dismal seasons that Villa and Newcastle have suffered?
Starting with Rafael Benetiz’s newly inherited Newcastle and their half of Ligue 1 signing woes; Florian Thauvin signed from Marseille for £13.76 million, Henri Saviet from Bordeaux for £4.5 million, and going back to last season, Remy Cabella from Montpellier for £7.5 million and finally Emmanuel Riviere from Monaco for £4.74 million. On the field, the signings have only managed two league goals and league assists between them, which is a dismal return for any team that has invested a whopping £30.5 million.
And it doesn’t get much better for Aston Villa, who from their four French league failures had a Premier League return of five goals and zero assists from £31.5 million. In comparison to the Magpies it looks a little better but it should also be noted that any of Villa’s French league impact has all come from one man, Jordan Ayew, who bagged all five of the recorded goals, so maybe it is harsh to label Ayew a failure, he could be in the wrong pond. The other three include Idrissa Gueye who cost them £6.75 million from Lorient, Jordan Veretout who cost £7.5 million from Nantes and Jordan Amavi – a £8.25 million signing from OG Nice. The latter, Jordan Amavi, was the only one who was showing any sign of living up to his price-tag before unfortunate injuries.
Although I’m solely focusing on exchanges with the Ligue 1 because of its relevance and pattern to the Premier League, there has been an overall misstep in signings in both Newcastle and Villa. Their aim has been to sign players that aren’t necessarily proven greats in the current game but to sign pure potential power – in my opinion, without thorough scouting and based intelligence this isn’t the way teams should be putting all their focus on. That said however, it can be done, Dimitri Payet to West Ham for £10.7 million and N’Golo Kante to Leicester for £5.6 million have been inspired signings.
In an alternate world, Newcastle’s Dimitri Payet pushes the toon to a top 4 finish and Villa’s N’Golo Kante keeps Villa well above the relegation waters. Nevertheless, there’s obviously much more to a team’s season performance than just signings, in Bilic and Ranieri, West Ham and Leicester respectively have men much more capable than those left in charge of Newcastle and Villa, but that isn’t to say it could have been so much more should they have prevailed in the summer and winter windows.