Aston Villa have swiftly moved to bolster their attacking options after securing promotion to the Premier League.
Anwar El Ghazi has joined Dean Smith’s side on a permanent basis after a season-long loan spell in 2018/19, while Spanish winger Jota – not to be confused with the Wolves midfielder-turned-striker – has been captured from rivals Birmingham City for an undisclosed fee.
Newly promoted sides can offer Fantasy managers some tempting bargains but for every Matt Doherty, there is a Tommy Smith or Ryan Sessegnon who doesn’t quite live up to the pre-season hype.
There’ll be the same reticence with Villa assets, no doubt, but we do know that we can expect some attacking football from Smith and his troops in 2019/20 whatever their limitations.
Jota’s move will pique the interest of Villa fans and bargain-hunting Fantasy managers but there a lot of question marks surrounding the former Brentford star, who played under Smith in west London.
Upon signing for the club, Jota said of Smith:
I know he likes me and I know how he likes to play – with plenty of the ball and with quality.
I’m happy to be working with him again. We had good times at Brentford and hopefully, there’s another good year ahead with him and his staff.
The Villa boss said of his new acquisition:
I worked with Jota at Brentford. He’s a superb, talented player and Birmingham signed him as their record transfer.
I’m really happy to have him back working with us. He’s got great ability, great balance and a great eye for both goals and assists.
The History and Statistics
Born in June 1991, José Ignacio Peleteiro Ramallo – Jota for short – progressed through the Celta Vigo youth set-up and made 68 appearances in the Spanish third tier for the club’s reserve side before he had reached the age of 21.
Despite scoring 22 goals for Celta B, Jota only made four league appearances for the first team and was farmed out on loan to Real Madrid Castilla and then Eibar.
It was with the latter that Jota had his breakthrough season at senior level, scoring 11 goals and supplying three assists in La Liga 2 in 2013/14.
Jota matched those numbers in his first season in English football, making 42 Championship appearances for Brentford after joining the Bees in August 2014.
An ankle injury and personal problems meant that Jota only made five league appearances for the west London club in 2015/16 before he was allowed to rejoin Eibar on a temporary basis in January 2016.
Jota didn’t find the back of the net once in his second spell with the Spanish club, with the Bees cutting short his 18-month loan deal in January 2017.
Jota’s best campaign in English football was, curiously, only half a season long.
After returning from Eibar, Jota scored on 12 occasions (including hitting a hat-trick against Rotherham) and set up a further five goals in just 21 Championship appearances as the back-end of 2016/17.
It was under Smith’s stewardship that the Spaniard hit this purple patch, with Jota’s form on the right flank earning him a big-money move to Birmingham City the following season – the Blues breaking their transfer record to bring Jota to St Andrew’s.
It is fair to say that the Galician midfielder hasn’t since hit the heights of his half-season under Smith, having scored just eight goals in 72 league appearances for Birmingham since his move to the Midlands in August 2017.
Jota even dropped to the bench in seven matches earlier this calendar year as he struggled for form in an admittedly limited Blues side, although there were positive displays earlier in the campaign as Garry Monk’s side flirted with the play-offs before their nine-point deduction.
Three goals from 62 shots in 2018/19 represented a fairly dismal return, although he did claim 11 assists across the campaign.
Only eight Championship players registered more key passes than Jota (82), whose role at set plays was key to his creativity.
The fact that Jota’s capture (a part-exchange deal that reportedly cost Villa £4m plus Gary Gardner) has been greeted with muted enthusiasm says much about the Spaniard’s output at Birmingham over the last two years and his questionable potential as a Fantasy asset.
The relatively short, two-year contract he has signed is also perhaps an indication that he has much to prove after his mixed performances at St Andrew’s.
What Smith and his board do in the transfer market over the coming two months will affect Jota’s Fantasy appeal in 2019/20 but there is a sense among Villa fans that the Spanish winger will boost the club’s squad depth, rather than walk straight into the starting XI.
Albert Adomah‘s 36 Championship appearances (22 of them starts) were mostly made on the right flank, with the Ghanaian winger also featuring in that position in the end-of-season play-offs.
Adomah was released by Villa at the end of the campaign, leaving youngster Andre Green as the only real option available to Smith on the right flank – although El Ghazi and Ahmed Elmohamady have sporadically featured in that position in 2018/19.
Reinforcements were desperately needed in the wide areas, then, and Jota’s signature will surely not be the only one Smith secures between now and transfer deadline day.
Fond of a dribble and heavily reliant on his left foot, Jota is an inverted right-winger who will cut inside rather than hug the touchline – although he has previously played in other positions across the frontline.
Smith got the best out of the Spaniard in 2016/17 and Villa’s attacking mindset is surely a better fit for him than the football he experienced at Birmingham: the Blues having been bottom of all 24 Championship clubs for average possession and second-bottom for pass completion.
Jota’s assist potential would seem greater than his goal threat, with only two Championship players having registered more accurate crosses last season.
As we alluded to earlier, however, Jota’s dead-ball responsibilities at Birmingham contributed majorly to his underlying creativity and it is questionable whether he would oust Conor Hourihane and Jack Grealish from their roles at free-kicks and corners.
With Hourihane, Grealish, El Ghazi and John McGinn all budget Fantasy midfield alternatives already on Villa’s books and, at present, seemingly more assured of regular starts, it would take a prolific pre-season and a quiet transfer window for Jota to enter the FPL radar ahead of Gameweek 1.
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