Six months into his claret and blue career, Morgan Sanson has only made nine appearances for Aston Villa. With only three starts, the former Marseille man impressed the Villa faithful with his hard-tackling, defensive solidity, and surprisingly good pace.
However, after suffering a knee injury in the 3-1 victory over Fulham in April, Sanson’s race was run and he was ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Now the Frenchman is back to full fitness, he will rejoin the group when the squad re-unites for pre-season. Along with Emi Buendia and Ashley Young, the midfielder can be forgiven for experiencing that ‘new boy’ feeling next month.
For most of us, Sanson will feel like a new signing again when the football restarts in August. After all, he has only made fleeting appearances bar the trio of starts.
Arriving late in the winter window, Sanson arrived shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak (which caused the squad to isolate) had been cleared up.
His first experience of a Villa game came in the 1-0 win at St Mary’s – home of Southampton. But for Emi Martinez’s heroics, the visitors would have left the South coast empty-handed.
Unfortunately for Sanson, he was left benched for the entirety of the game – reasonable though due to his arrival only a few days prior. Nonetheless, he was no doubt immersed in the post-match celebrations after Villa clinched an important win in their hunt for Europe (at the time it was a real possibility).
A week after signing, Sanson was given his debut – the home defeat to West Ham. Though by all accounts, his never-say-die attitude galvanized the Villa performance for the 10 minutes he was afforded.
After again being an unused substitute against Arsenal, Sanson appeared in the next eight fixtures. He saw out the final quarter-hour at the Amex Stadium (and was booked), before subsequent cameos against Leicester, Leeds, and Sheffield United.
By the start of March, Sanson had yet to be included in Smith’s XI, however, in a West Midlands derby against Wolves, he started on the pitch.
In truth, it was a drab affair. A dull 0-0 between the rivals saw little excitement but Sanson left with a clean sheet when he was hooked on the hour mark. In what we now know as Sanson fashion, he’d been booked.
Next, against Newcastle, he was drafted in for Jacob Ramsey fifteen minutes into the second period.
Booked towards the end of the game, Villa scored late on courtesy of a Ciaran Clark own goal, only for Jamal Lascelles to equalize at the death. Sanson brought a notable difference to the game and provided cover for the defenders through his tracking back and ball-winning skills in front of the defensive line.
His valued impact on Tyneside merited him a start in the home defeat to Spurs. A disappointing performance all-around drew criticism of the Villa players though, as inconsistency cost Villa.
Despite this, the manager was clearly gaining confidence in his new signing. In the following fixture against Fulham, Sanson was deployed in the deep-lying midfield role.
If not for a defensive error costing Villa the goal, Sanson would have another clean sheet to add to his tally. Sadly, his game was marred by an inconspicuous looking tackle that left him hobbling off the field towards the 70’ minute.
Pictured with an ice strapping later on, the knee injury turned out to end his debut Villa campaign just as it was beginning to prosper.
He was not included in any further squads that season.
As Sanson was beginning to make an impression on the team, he was laboured with injury. A cruel blow to that may have cost Villa their push for European places.
When Sanson begins preparations for the upcoming season in a few weeks, he’ll be looking for a fresh start. Whilst so many are fixated by the new arrivals through the door this summer, don’t forget this man who we haven’t seen much of either…
Costing around £15 million, there’s a reason Villa moved early to land Morgan Sanson.