Football

Aston Villa set to make move for Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse


Aston Villa are set to make a move for Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse, a day after agreeing a club-record £30m-plus deal to sign Emiliano Buendía from Norwich. Dean Smith is eager to complete transfers as quickly as possible as Villa prepare for another season of progress in the Premier League.

Villa are understood to be keen to bolster their midfield and Ward-Prowse’s set-piece prowess, in particular, would boost their attacking armoury. That would prove especially useful if opponents continue to bring down Jack Grealish, who has been the most fouled player in the Premier League for each of the last two seasons – despite missing 12 league matches with a shin injury last season.

Ward-Prowse’s eight league goals for Southampton last season included two superb free-kicks in a 4-3 win at Villa Park. He also claimed seven assists throughout the league campaign and scored his first goal for England in the 5-0 win over San Marino in March.

Smith has said he does not plan to make a large number of signings this summer but wants the few recruits that do arrive to make big impacts. Villa have advanced in every season since Smith took charge in October 2018 and aim to improve on last season’s 11th-place finish. Ward-Prowse fits Smith’s criteria in terms of playing attributes as well as his age and level of Premier League experience.

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“In terms of our recruitment, we talk about the sweet spots that we’re looking for,” Smith said this month, “which is that the players have Premier League experience and are [ideally] British because there is no adaptation risk at all.”



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