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Makoun Review: What to Make of Up and Down Start

Jean Makoun joined the club after a long and drawn out transfer saga with old club Lyon. A deal was eventually agreed to see the 27-year-old Cameroon international to Villa Park for a reported up front fee of £5m with add-ons of around £2.5m touted to boot. Houllier was clearly very keen to sign the midfielder after being knocked back on a number of occasions and finally got his man prior to the Man City clash, though Makoun didn’t get international clearance and made his debut against Wigan. This game was one which was severely dented from a personal stand-point with regards to the playmaker when he was booked early on. Until that point he had used the ball well, if unspectacularly, but his hassling style saw him pick up a yellow for a pretty innocuous challenge and effectively stunted his progress in the game in my opinion, before his withdrawn around an hour in. After acclimatizing to the English game pretty quickly, Makoun was imperious next time out in my opinion against United, with his stats showing him out-pass his team-mates and opponents alike. He backed this up with a man of the match award against Fulham and that game got me excited about the quality which Villa had obtained despite fading slightly towards the end. Unfortunately, just as he was getting a good run of early form, Makoun had a nightmare moment last time out against Blackpool, making a rash challenge and rightly getting a straight red card. So where does that leave us in knowing what we can expect from the industrious, pass-master? I though I’d have a little look at his stats to see just how well he has done.

As in my previous new signing reviews it’s basics first. In four games for the club he has finished just two having been subbed on his debut against Wigan and being sent off against Blackpool last weekend, racking up a total of  307 minutes. The red card is accompanied by two yellows, meaning the only game which he has not been disciplined was against Man Utd, in my opinion his best appearance in a Villa shirt, you’ll see why later.

Thus far Villa fans have seen very little in terms of an attacking presence from the Cameroonian, although he has played in an advanced role for previous clubs and country in the past. In fact, in 4 turn outs, Makoun has attempted just one shot and that was worth forgetting. The 27-year-old tried a long range drive against Fulham which went way, way wide. I would hope that when he returns from a three match suspension, he would be given a little more freedom if he plays with either Petrov or Reo-Coker, both massively defensive minded, or possibly alongside the more advanced threats from youngsters Delph and Bannan. One thing that Villa and indeed Makoun is lacking in the centre of midfield is height. Captain Petrov is the tallest of the 5 aforementioned players, at 5’11” which could have been the reason Houllier looked to bring in Michael Bradley who may get his chance in Makoun’s absence with the American standing at 6’2″.

A couple of trivial bits now. Makoun has made 7 interceptions in his four games, one of which should have seen Downing score last time out. Slightly less trivial and indeed more interesting is the fouls for/against ratio which the midfielder currently has. In 14 involvements in free-kick decisions, Makoun has won just 4, giving away 10, three of which have been punished by two yellow cards and one red, at a rate of 28.6%. His early disciplinary record, backed by these stats, would suggest that the middle-man has a way to go in his tackling and the stats related to tackling would add further substance to this theory.

For a primarily defensive playmaker, Makoun’s tackling is out of sorts thus far. In 30 challenge contests, Makoun has lost out on 21 occasions at a success rate of just 30%, not good. Compare this to the likes of Reo-Coker who partnered Makoun against Blackpool making 15 tackles and succeeding on ten of those occasions, you could suggest the newcomer is still slightly off the pace. It is worth pointing out that Makoun did make a fantastic tackle against Blackpool to effectively set-up Villa’s opener when the ball broke to Reo-Coker, but the Cameroon-man is very slight and could do with bulking up in my opinion, in order to cope of the superior strength in the Premier League.

Finally we come to Makoun’s passing stats, an attribute which has seen him pick up the most praise since his move to Villa Park. I have been one of those to be highly impressed by the midfielder, who is always available for the ball, especially in deep positions, and often plays the simple but effective pass to keep the ball rolling for his side. Makoun is also superior to his counterparts in my opinion at looking for the more offensive pass, with the likes of Petrov consistently playing with their back to the opposition goal, deep in the Villa half.

Makoun has made 240 in his 4 appearances thus far, averaging 60 a game, but his most impressive passing displays were certainly in the games against Fulham and, in particular, United. His success rate over the four games is impressive at exactly 80% thus far, but even more so in the games against Fulham, making 61/73 passes (83.6%), and Man Utd, making an outstanding 94 passes, with 85 on target (90.4%).

How have you rated his performances so far? Are the games against Fulham and United real signs of quality from the new signing or irrelevant statistics and do you believe he is warranting his price tag? Should he be in the starting line-up week in-week out and if so, who with?



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