Aston Villa are reportedly keen on Wolfsburg defender Maxence Lacroix ahead of a huge summer transfer window for manager Steven Gerrard and the club.
Villa, Newcastle United and West Ham United have all been credited with an interest in the right-sided centre-half, who has previously been a target for both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, according to French publication Jeunes Footeux. The 22-year-old defender recently signed a contract extension keeping him at the German club until 2025 with improved terms last September.
However, the new deal does include a release clause in the region of £34million which is set to become active this summer, according to Sky Germany via Bulinews.com. Here is an insight into what the centre back could offer Steven Gerrard’s side if Villa do decide to trigger the release clause…
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Standing at 6 feet 2 inches and 89 kilograms, Lacroix is a physically imposing figure within the joint best defence within the Bundesliga this season, after recording 11 clean sheets which is the same amount as Bayern Munich.
The dominance he possesses thanks to his physical attributes do not come at the expense of his quickness or acceleration however, as he holds a rare abundance of pace and power seen within centre backs at the highest level.
As seen in the graphic below, Lacroix’s strengths and possible reasons Villa are tracking the player are clear to see.
He possesses a strong reading of the game and when coupled with the previously mentioned pace, it comes as no surprise that he ranks within the top one percent of centre backs for interceptions each game (4.2).
When defending he can be seen to either be constantly tracking his opponents closely, where he is usually tasked with marking the very best strikers within the league such as Robert Lewandowski, or he is scanning across the pitch for any signs of danger.
Ranking in the top 20% for blocks (2), tackles (2.2) and the top 22% for aerials won (3.3) the pairing of this quickness and his reading of the game makes for an effective extinguisher for any immediate threat to his goal.
In possession Lacroix is a calming influence from the back, constantly showing for the ball and rarely panics under pressure from his opponents. He ranks in the top eight percent of centre backs for passes under pressure, outlining his ability to remain composed whilst on the ball.
His first choice is never a hopeful ball lofted forward and as he regularly either recycles possession or aims to dissect the midfield with a progressive pass (3.1 per game – top 31%). As outlined in the recent fixture against 1. FC Köln where his composure and eye for a pass from the back quickly led to his teams only goal in the 1-0 victory.
His confidence isn’t only displayed through his ability to pick a pass but also his ability to drive his team forward. His excellent reading of the game not only helps defensively but also allows him to identify the perfect opportunities to progress the ball forward himself, as he ranks in the top one percent for dribbles completed per game (0.9).
Lacroix predominantly operates as the right sided centre back in a back four, which would mean he would be arriving to compete with both Ezri Konsa and Calum Chambers for a starting role if Villa did pursue this signing.
Below is a comparison of both Lacroix and Konsa.
Lacroix exceeds Konsa in the majority of statistics but it is worth noting that the Premier League will be of a higher quality to the Bundesliga and the majority of the progression from the back for Villa falls on the shoulders of Tyrone Mings out of the two centre backs.
At 22-years of age Lacroix is already a defender of immense quality that could offer both the necessary competition and quality within Gerrard’s squad needed to propel the team into European football next season.