Since Christian Benteke’s departure in the summer of 2015, Aston Villa have spent a total of £46.4million on strikers – four of which are no longer at the club.
Those four who have now left the club managed just 32 goals between them – only double the number Benteke scored in his best season for Villa.
Jonathan Kodjia is the only forward who has remained at the club, but he has failed to nail a regular starting spot at centre-forward.
Rudy Gestede and Jordan Ayew endured two unproductive seasons at Villa Park, before Ross McCormack and Scott Hogan failed to justify hefty transfer fees.
It is then fair to say, that Villa have never really replaced the big Belgian centre-forward; Tammy Abraham’s successful loan spell last season only served to highlight what the club have been missing.
Four years on though, it seems the void left by the target-man has finally been filled.
During the period since Benteke left for Liverpool, club-record signing Wesley Moraes found the net 46 times for Club Brugge – outscoring all of Villa’s previous attacking signings combined.
The Brazilian forward joined Villa in July for £22million – a relative bargain in today’s heavily inflated transfer market.
Already a two-time league winner, Wesley’s form steadily improved over his time in Belgium. The former AS Trenčín striker earned his move to Villa Park after he contributed to 27 goals (17 goals, 10 assists) last season.
Unlike Villa’s previous additions in the striking department, the 22-year-old also has experience in Europe’s elite competition. He has scored four times in 13 games for Brugge in the Champions League.
But will Wesley be able to replicate this scoring form in a league as unforgiving as the Premier League?
The physical aspect of Europe’s toughest league will certainly not be an issue. Wesley stands at six foot and three inches and weighs in at 93kg.
In comparison, the now-Crystal Palace striker Benteke is also six foot and three inches – the Belgium international is, however, a whole 10kg lighter than the new Villa man.
With that being said, Wesley will be every bit as much of a handful for Premier League defenders as Benteke was during his time at the club.
During the course of the season, the Brazilian’s size and strength will make him an effective outlet – something that any bottom-half side craves.
Wesley is certainly not one to shy away from the physical side of the game either – another trait that is vital in any Premiership forward. During his earlier years at Brugge, he struggled with disciplinary issues, and reportedly wore tape on his hands in a match against Royal Antwerp as a reminder to not react.
Forwards who have made the move from Belgium to England also have a good track record. Benteke himself joined Villa from Genk, and has since scored 70 Premiership goals, while compatriot and former Anderlecht striker Romelu Lukaku has found the net 103 times in the league.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, another former Anderlecht forward, has also been effective in spells at Newcastle United and Fulham. Michy Batshuayi, who started his career with Standard Liege, scored five times in 11 games on loan at Crystal Palace last season.
Benteke was also 22-years-old when he made the move to Villa Park – the same age as Wesley. But during his time in Belgium Benteke did prove to be a more clinical striker. Villa’s top scorer in the 2014-15 campaign achieved a rate of 0.37 goals per game in the Pro League before his move to England.
In contrast, Wesley managed 0.3 goals per game in his four seasons at Brugge.
The Brazilian however, is slightly more effective at setting up his teammates, attaining a record of 0.17 assists per game, compared to Benteke’s 0.16.
His former manager, Ivan Leko, was full of praise for the Brazilian earlier in the year when Arsenal were linked to his player.
“I’m sure that Wesley has the level to play for Arsenal,” he said.
“I absolutely believe that he can handle that level…He is not only a talent; he is also someone who works hard every day and shows a strong mentality in training.”
Despite a marginally poorer scoring record, the similarities between Wesley and Benteke are striking. Wesley will be a huge asset to Villa this season, and will no doubt repeat the feat managed by previous Pro League strikers and become one of the top forwards in the league
Villa fans can only hope that the similarities end there – Wesley leaving for Liverpool in two seasons time, followed by four prolific striker-less years, doesn’t sound too appealing.
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