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Dean Smith: Bertrand Traore’s arrival shows Villa are building high-quality team

AFC Bournemouth v Lyon – Pre-Season Friendly – Vitality Stadium
(Image credit: Mark Kerton)

Dean Smith believes Bertrand Traore’s arrival is another building block in turning Aston Villa into a high-quality outfit.

Traore will make his Villa debut in Thursday’s third-round Carabao Cup tie at Bristol City following his move from Lyon for a reported fee of £17million.

The 25-year-old made only four Premier League starts before leaving Chelsea in 2017, but he flourished in France and his addition boosts Villa’s attacking options further after the arrival of club-record signing Ollie Watkins.

“All the paperwork’s done now and he’ll be ready for Bristol City,” Smith said.

“He brings us extra quality which we need and competition for places is what we want if we’re to be a high-quality team. We’re building towards that.

“Last season was a tough start, a baptism and we had to bed in a lot of players.

“This season we just felt there’s no newness about it. There’s an expectancy from myself that we’ll be much better this season.”

Villa have opened the new campaign with two wins, backing up a 3-1 Carabao Cup success at Burton by overcoming Sheffield United 1-0 in their Premier League opener on Monday.

Smith believes defensive solidity and improved fitness levels have given Villa an extra edge since last season’s close brush with relegation.

“I believe we’re a higher quality and fitter team than we were last season,” he said.

“I know they (Sheffield United) went down to 10 men, but that’s the sort of defensive display that you want without the ball.

“We’ve been good at that since the lockdown, not conceding many goals at all, and we’ve continued that again.

“After we came back for Project Restart we’ve been good. The last four games we only conceded three shots on target and we conceded just one against Sheffield United.

“It shows that without the ball we’ve become a better team. We’re making it very hard for the opposition to make chances.”

England manager Gareth Southgate was at Villa Park on Monday to run the rule of what is a growing band of Englishmen under Smith’s charge.

And Smith believes international recognition could soon extend beyond Jack Grealish, who made his England debut in the Nations League draw with Denmark earlier this month.

He said: “Jack got his debut, Tyrone (Mings) has been in the squad. Ezri Konsa’s been in the junior ages.

“We’ve got some really good talent. Ollie Watkins is one who’ll want to improve and get recognised by the international manager and, hopefully, he can do that.”