Dean Smith’s Aston Villa are stuck in the Premier League relegation zone – would signing Angers’ Ligue 1 ace Baptiste Santamaria have saved them?

Aston Villa really could have done with their own version of N’Golo Kante this season.

Just in case you were wondering why Dean Smith’s side have the worst defensive record in the entire division, the Midland giants saw their glaring deficiencies laid bare by their humiliating 4-0 defeat to Leicester City last time out. It could have been worse too, as Jamie Vardy and co ran ragged in a brutal second half at the King Power.

For all of Marvelous Nakamba’s best efforts, Aston Villa have looked increasingly vulnerable as the campaign has progressed, losing 6-1 against Man City, 3-0 against Watford and conceding 28 shots in a dreadful performance at Southampton that wasn’t quite reflected by the 2-0 scoreline.

It’s tempting to wonder how different things could have been, however, had Aston Villa managed to wrap up a deal for statistically the finest defensive midfielder in French football.

According to ABC Sevilla, Villa made a £9 million bid for Baptiste Santamaria during the January transfer window. But, once Angers said no, Smith was left with a half-fit, seemingly half-arsed Danny Drinkwater.

There is a reason why Santamaria is labelled the new N’Golo Kante across the channel, and not just because he has made a name for himself as a hard-working, unassuming presence at the heart of a Ligue 1 midfield.

Santamaria averages 3.3 interceptions per game, far more than any of Aston Villa’s current midfielders, while also completing 1.5 tackles across 90 minutes of action. No one in the division covers more ground either with the 25-year-old’s running stats nothing short of remarkable.

It would be a little presumptuous to suggest that signing Santamaria alone would have lifted Villa clear of relegation danger. There are more problems facing Smith and co than their lack of a consistent defensive midfielder after all.

But Santamaria certainly wouldn’t have made it so easy for James Maddison and co during a four-goal thumping that leaves one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs staring down the barrel.

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