Kiyotake could be missing piece of Villa jigsaw

Posted by Martin Laurence, WhoScored

Hiroshi Kiyotake GettyImagesHiroshi Kiyotake is Nurnberg's set piece specialist.

The general consensus is that Aston Villa have had a productive summer in the transfer window thus far. They secured six deals early on, all of which have been with the squad throughout pre-season, despite intermittent injuries to Jores Okore, Aleksandar Tonev and Nicklas Helenius.

The fact that all of the new recruits will be unbeknown to most fans seems of little concern at Villa Park right now, with the supporters trusting Paul Lambert's judgment implicitly after last year's signings of the likes of Christian Benteke, Matthew Lowton and Ashley Westwood. The fact is the newcomers are unlikely to be six ready-made Benteke's, in the sense that they just hit the ground running, however.

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Question marks also remain as to whether the side has a true creative force and reports have since resurfaced linking the club to Nurnberg's Hiroshi Kiyotake. On the face of it, having picked up 10 Bundesliga assists last season, the Japanese international seems as though he could fit that mould, but WhoScored looks deeper into the 24-year old's stats to judge whether that is indeed the case.

First of all, it's worth noting that any further incomings at Villa depend heavily on the club ousting what has become known as the 'bomb squad', with top earner Darren Bent seemingly the key man to nudge out the exit door. In addition, any deal looks likely to set the Midlands outfit back somewhere in excess of £10 million, which would make the midfielder Villa's fourth most expensive signing in their history.

There is no doubt that Kiyotake has potential and, importantly, fits in with Lambert's liking for younger players. At 23-years-old he'd be a similar age to the majority of players at the club, which is something that a number of the squad have highlighted as the reason behind what is the most harmonious mood at Bodymoor for a very long time.

On the pitch, his aforementioned assist tally is certainly the stand out statistic, though it's the Japan international's ability over a set piece rather than his creative exploits in open play that have been the major contributing factor to such a figure. Only three players, all of whom played for champions Bayern Munich, picked up more assists in the Bundesliga last season, but eight of Kiyotake's 10 came from set piece situations.

Indeed he picked up two more assists from set plays than any other player in Europe's top five leagues, indicating a superb delivery from a dead ball. Such an asset would only be beneficial to a side that boast a striker of Benteke's ilk and frame. The Nurnberg star's cross accuracy was a highly impressive 31.9% last season, dropping only slightly to 26.3% when excluding corners - a figure unparalleled by any player likely to be in Lambert's plans next season.

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Villa attempted fewer crosses than any other Premier League side last term, and Kiyotake's 2.5 accurate deliveries per game would help to utilise a threat that the side haven't carried since the departures of James Milner, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing. Kiyotake's 2.7 key passes per game last season is almost twice that of any Villa player, and the fact that Benteke led the way in that respect last term (1.6 per game) highlights their lack of a playmaker.

Again, however, it must be said that over half of the Japanese's chances created came from set plays, though with 1.1 key passes from open play his average was still a considerable advance on Villa's midfield ranks. Indeed, it's only that man Benteke again who averaged more than one key pass from open play per game for the club last season. The Villans ranked a lowly 16th for the same statistic in the Premier League, with 251 in total, and it's clear that Kiyotake would help once more in that department.

Elsewhere, only Reading attempted fewer dribbles than Villa last season, and it's another area in which Kiyotake is adept. His average of 1.8 successful dribbles per game was better than that of any Villa player, while a success rate when attempting to beat defenders of 68.7% is another excellent statistic. Of the 92 players to complete at least 50 dribbles last season only seven could trump that figure.

Villa's interest in Nurnberg's prized asset, picking up a team high WhoScored rating of 7.18 last season, is clearly not without grounding. He's a player with the spark in possession that has been missing at Villa Park in recent seasons. While Kiyotake isn't the out-and-out playmaker that many of the fans are after, he has qualities that are lacking within the ranks.

An eight-figure sum is a big fee for a club in Villa's current position, but it may just be money well spent if the Japanese international can provide the ammunition that the team's more prolific players require. With the player's German employers looking to stand firm in the face of a £10 million bid, the ball is in Lambert's court as to whether to up the ante.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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