The January transfer window is just around the corner and Unai Emery is on the verge of being able to make his first signing as Aston Villa manager.
He has been unable to dip into the market since replacing Steven Gerrard at the helm earlier this season and next month offers him the chance to improve his XI by adding players to his team.
According to Mundo Deportivo (via Sport Witness), Emery wants to snap up Real Sociedad star Mikel Merino to bolster his squad at the start of 2023.
The report adds that the central midfielder has a €60m (£53m) release clause in his contract, although it remains to be seen whether or not NSWE are willing to sanction a deal at that price.
It is also stated that it will be a difficult transfer for Villa to complete as Sociedad do not want to lose the Spanish maestro and the club do not have the lure of European football to tempt the player into pushing for a move.
However, if Villa and Emery are able to complete this deal then they could be landing a big upgrade on current central midfielder John McGinn.
Has John McGinn been good enough this season?
The Scotland international has played 16 times in the Premier League this season and averaged a Sofascore rating of 6.89. He has averaged 3.2 tackles and interceptions per game and created 0.4 chances per match, whilst failing to score a single goal.
These statistics show that he has been a combative presence in the middle of the park but has offered little in the way of quality on the ball, as his average performance level and his contributions in the final third have left plenty to be desired.
Merino, who journalist Josh Bunting claimed “oozes confidence“, has, meanwhile, averaged a score of 7.24 across 14 La Liga appearances this season.
The Spanish international has chipped in with one goal and six assists, creating 1.4 chances per match, and made 3.3 tackles and interceptions per outing – as per Sofascore.
He would also offer a bigger presence in the air as he ranks in the 99th percentile of midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues over the last 365 days for aerial battles won per 90 (3.34), whilst McGinn is in the 45th percentile (0.82).
Villa have conceded the second-most goals from set pieces (nine) in the Premier League this season and adding a player with Merino’s exceptional aerial ability could help them to improve in this aspect of their defending, along with adding another threat at the other end of the pitch.
Therefore, Emery could land a big upgrade on McGinn, because of the above reasons, by securing the Sociedad gem’s signature.