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Who is Boubacar Kamara? Aston Villa's most important summer signing

Posted on May 24, 2022

Less than 24 hours after the Premier League season has drawn to a close and Aston Villa have already made their first signing of the summer. Well... second if you take into account the permanent addition of Coutinho after the Brazilian had joined on loan in January, yet the capture of Boubacar Kamara is a statement one to say the least.

"Aston Villa is delighted to announce the signing of Boubacar Kamara on a five-year contract," a statement read on Villa's website on Monday morning in news that would delight any Villans fan. To have landed the Frenchman for free means Villa have staked an early claim for the signing of the summer.

What was clear in Villa's final day 3-2 loss to Manchester City was that they needed a player to help ride out the storm when opponents took the game to the Birmingham side. It all started so well for Steven Gerrard's team at the Etihad Stadium as goals from Matty Cash and Coutinho either side of half time saw Villa take a 2-0 lead into the final 15 minutes of Sunday's match. They'd go on to concede three goals in the space of six minutes as a season that promised so much ended on a somewhat sour note.

Far too often, Villa have wilted when the going got tough. They took the lead in three of their final four games of the season, only to fail to take full advantage. Against Tottenham in early April they showed great resolve to respond to Son Heung-Min's opener and were unfortunate to go in at the break behind as Hugo Lloris put in an inspired first half shift between the sticks. Yet when Dejan Kulusevski doubled Spurs' advantage shortly after the restart, Villa capitulated to a 4-0 defeat, their heaviest home league loss since a 6-1 mauling at the hands of Manchester City in January 2020.

As one might expect, Villa have developed a statistically calculated WhoScored weakness of 'protecting the lead', but the hope now is that the arrival of Kamara will go some way to ironing out the mistakes that have become commonplace in this Villa squad. Kamara won't get bums off seats, however he carries out the nitty gritty defensive work to a very high standard.

A return of 3.4 tackles and interceptions combined per game in Ligue 1 this season ranked 35th of the 301 players to have made 20 or more league appearances, a return that would have ranked third for Villa. In addition, when he does win the ball, Kamara doesn't necessarily look to pry apart defences, but rather elects to keep things ticking over for his side. A 90.6% pass success rate was the 13th best in France's top tier this term. Exclude PSG players, and he jumps to fifth.

In the Europa League, meanwhile, a pass success rate of 93.8% was the best of those to have made five or more appearances in the competition with Kamara needed to simply cut out the danger and recycle possession, two qualities he does well. The Frenchman adds some much-needed steel to this fragile Villa midfield and his willingness to feed to those who prefer to get forward will only benefit the likes of John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey, two midfielders who may well operate either side of Kamara should Gerrard opt to continue with a 4-3-1-2 system.

The pressure to carry out their defensive duties will be lessened and allow McGinn and Ramsey, among others, the chance to hurt opponents in the final third, safe in the knowledge that Kamara has sat deep to ensure Villa aren't caught short at the back should teams counter Gerrard's side if they commit too many men forward. Crucially, too, is that, despite his tender years, Kamara won't make the same mistakes his new teammates have been prone to making this season. Since making his Ligue 1 debut in 2017/18, Kamara has committed just one error leading to an opposition goal across 130 league appearances, a superb return for a player his age in his position.

That Villa have beaten off Champions League competition for his services speaks volumes of Gerrard's pull at the club now, and to have confirmed his arrival before the dust has even settled on 2021/22 is a huge boost for Villa. Coutinho may have been the headline grabbing addition to the squad, but Kamara is far and away the most important. After a disappointing 14th-placed finish, the powers that be will want to see Villa competing for a European spot next season and the capture of Kamara is certainly a step in the right direction.

Kamara isn't the first player to swap Ligue 1 for Villa in recent years having followed in Jordan Amavi and Morgan Sanson's footsteps. Supporters are hoping it's third time the charm, but with Kamara exactly the player Villa have needed, there is little to suggest he will disappoint at Villa Park.