Why Idrissa Gana was undoubtedly Aston Villa's signing of the season

Aston Villa's Idrissa Gueye in action with Bournemouth's Lewis Grabban

The Senegalese midfielder was one of few Aston Villa players to have an superb individual campaign despite the horror year at Villa Park.

Aston Villa's Idrissa Gueye in action with Bournemouth's Lewis Grabban

It has been a dark, dark season at Villa Park this term - the darkest, in fact, in at least the last three decades since Aston Villa were last relegated from the top flight.

However, amidst the gloom there have been some isolated bright spots, and one of those has undoubtedly been the performances of last summer's signing Idrissa Gana in the centre of midfield.

The Senegalese international cost £9 million when he joined from French side Lille a year ago, and he has looked worth every penny in the heart of the action for the Birmingham club.

Arsenal's Francis Coquelin and Mesut Ozil in action with Aston Villa's Idrissa Gueye

Even just a cursory look at his statistics from the campaign shows how impressive his debut season in England really was despite playing - points-wise, at least - the third worst side ever seen in the Premier League.

No midfielder in the English top flight won the ball back on more occasions each match than Gana, who turned possession over nearly 10 times in every appearance, just edging Leicester City and new England star Danny Drinkwater.

Meanwhile, only Spurs star Mouse Dembele won more duels per game in midfield that the African midfielder, and it was only Leicester's PFA Player of the Year nominee N'Golo Kante who intercepted opposition play on more occasions each match.

  PositionTeamBall Recovery GAMEDuel Won GAMEInterception GAMEWon Tackle GAMEWon Contest GAMETotal Pass GAMEAccurate Pass GAMETouches GAMEAppearancesMins Played
Idrissa Gueye MF Aston Villa 9.83 8.43 4.03 3.09 1.97 53.4 45.69 73.74 35 3,075
Daniel Drinkwater MF Leicester 9.77 5.46 1.57 2.11 0.89 56.69 44 72.6 35 3,038
N'Golo Kanté MF Leicester 8.81 7.49 4.22 3.38 1.27 39.16 31.97 59.05 37 3,020
Victor Wanyama MF Southampton 8.33 6.97 2.27 2.37 0.77 45.07 37.13 59.97 30 2,500
Aaron Ramsey MF Arsenal 8 6.13 1.84 1.9 1.26 69.45 59.81 89.48 31 2,623
Yann M'Vila MF Sunderland 7.76 5.41 2.32 1.86 0.41 45.38 36.95 61.92 37 3,188
Mousa Dembélé MF Tottenham 7.69 8.59 1.93 2.9 2.86 47.52 42.76 64.79 29 2,273
Gareth Barry MF Everton 7.24 5.85 1.61 2.06 0.55 62.42 51.12 77.52 33 2,835
Francis Coquelin MF Arsenal 7.23 5.58 2.96 2.19 1.15 42.88 38.23 55.88 26 1,646
Nemanja Matic MF Chelsea 6.91 5.33 2.03 1.91 1.15 48.7 42.91 62.82 33 2,421
Emre Can MF Liverpool 6.8 6.37 2.07 2.3 1.3 59.8 48.6 75.37 30 2,492
Cheikhou Kouyaté MF West Ham 6.68 7.29 2.26 2.15 0.85 36.29 28.85 52.79 34 3,009
Mark Noble MF West Ham 6.38 5.46 2.24 2 0.78 51.97 44.84 66.7 37 3,204
Moussa Sissoko MF Newcastle 6.08 6 0.95 1.24 2.27 37.43 28.41 58.86 37 3,221
Georginio Wijnaldum MF Newcastle 6 4.32 0.71 0.84 1.32 32.95 27.95 46.05 38 3,168
Yohan Cabaye MF C. Palace 5.85 4.97 3.64 2.42 0.27 38.45 31.79 58.82 33 2,703
James Milner MF Liverpool 5.82 5.32 1.32 1.89 0.68 49.07 38 73.68 28 2,414
Morgan Schneiderlin MF Man Utd 5.55 3.93 2.52 1.72 0.31 50.28 45 61.45 29 2,204
Michael Carrick MF Man Utd 5.43 2.86 1.61 0.96 0.29 55.96 48.39 64.68 28 1,975
Dele Alli MF Tottenham 5.3 6.15 1.85 1.61 0.91 32.82 24.91 53.48 33 2,479
Dimitri Payet MF West Ham 5 4.4 0.77 0.53 2.23 42.3 33.9 67.27 30 2,571
Yaya Touré MF Man City 4.94 4.84 0.78 0.84 1.81 57.44 49.66 70.72 32 2,331
Ross Barkley MF Everton 4.89 6.58 0.45 0.58 3.05 47.42 40.76 67.55 38 3,085
Eric Dier MF Tottenham 4.08 5.32 2.16 1.73 0.22 56.32 46.89 68.7 37 3,266
Joe Allen MF Liverpool 3.84 3.11 0.74 1 0.37 21.58 18.11 29.47 19 731
Fabian Delph MF Man City 3.82 3.82 1.29 0.76 1.41 28.41 24.35 38.65 17 753
Craig Gardner MF West Brom 3.26 3.47 0.88 1.15 0.21 18.12 11.62 31.56

34

2,033

 Gana was only behind Kante and Liverpool stalwart Lucas Leiva in terms of successful tackles per appearance, although the latter featured in eight fewer league fixtures than the Villa man.

The 26-year-old also posted very impressive figures in terms of touches per game, contests won each match, and his overall passing accuracy, which at 85% was surprisingly good considering his reputation for being caught in possession.

West Brom's Claudio Yacob in action with Aston Villa's Idrissa Gueye

Gana was the heartbeat of Villa's side this season, and had he settled into life in England slightly more quickly and - crucially - had some quality support in the midfield, the club's abject campaign could have been very different.

He is far too good to stick with Villa in the Championship, and could likely do the job for a top-six English or European side, and deserves to be one of several stars to move on this summer.

Aston Villa's Idrissa Gueye (L) and Leandro Bacuna (R) in action with Watford's Almen Abdi

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch