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Africans Abroad: Trezeguet's Villa survive, Aubameyang falls short

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Trezeguet 'proved himself' during Aston Villa's run-in (2:09)

Colin Udoh and Ed Dove reflect on Trezeguet's Premier League season after Aston Villa escaped relegation. (2:09)

Mahmoud Trezeguet ended his maiden Premier League season on a high as Aston Villa avoided relegation on the final weekend of the season, although Ismaila Sarr and Dominic Solanke weren't so lucky on a day in which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was unable to retain the Golden Boot despite scoring twice.

Villa spent heavily last season in order to give themselves the best chance of preserving their place in the top tier. For much of the campaign, however, it didn't look like their investment would pay off, with Dean Smith seeing relatively little return for his £143 million outlay.

Among the new arrivals were Zimbabwe's Marvelous Nakamba, signed for £10.8 million from Club Brugge, Trezeguet for £9 million from Kasimpasa, and, in January, Mbwana Samatta of Tanzania from Genk for a £9.45 million fee.

Anglo-Congolese defender Ezri Konsa also made the step up from Brentford in a £11.9 million deal, although he -- like the other African recruits -- had no experience of the top flight.

In truth, none of the quartet have been overly impressive; at least until Trezeguet's late-season intervention.

Trezeguet's season was meandering towards 'failure' status having scored only three goals to mid-July; he had neither imposed himself on contests as a creative force, nor weighed in with goals to help the Villains' battle against the drop.

That all changed in the final weeks of the season; as the Midlanders found their momentum, so the North African found his scoring boots.

He netted three of the five goals that Villa scored during the run-in -- two against Crystal Palace and one against Arsenal -- and was directly responsible for six of the eight points they took during the final four matches of the campaign.

It was enough to ensure his debut season in England will be remembered fondly, if not propelling him to 'cult hero' status.

Unfortunately for Samatta, a January arrival to replace the injured Wesley, a goal on his Premier League debut against Bournemouth in February proved to be a false dawn.

He's failed to score in his subsequent 13 league games, and he headed over the bar from close range in Villa's final league fixture against West Ham United on Sunday.

It was a miss that could have proved costly, and the Tanzania frontman has done precious little over the past six months to suggest that can be a hit in the Premier League.

While Trezeguet and co. ended their campaign with celebrations, Sarr and Watford dropped into the Championship after consecutive defeats -- against Manchester City and Arsenal -- in their final two matches.

Some many point to the late dismissal of Nigel Pearson as one of the key factors in their relegation, but, in truth, too many Hornets underperformed as the club's ongoing malaise took a firm grip over their fortunes.

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1:29

Relegated Watford are 'absolute madness'

Steve Nicol slams Watford for sacking Nigel Pearson with two games left as the club gets relegated.

Sarr, one of the club's summer recruits, didn't have a glowing year, although he did enough to demonstrate that he's too good for the second tier.

The 22-year-old, who arrived from Stade Rennais for more than £25 million last summer, ended the season with five goals, two in that momentous victory over Liverpool in February -- a performance that prompted his teammate Christian Kabasele to joke that the wideman would now cost prospective suitors "€100 million".

He's been linked with a move to Liverpool, while Gary Neville has even suggested the winger could be a strong addition for Manchester United.

"United need a right winger," the former England right-back said on Sky Sports. "He's a big, big talent; honestly he really is.

"He'll be sought after and Watford will, I'm sure, cash in if they get the right bid."

While Sarr is unlikely to muscle into the starting line-up of either of the two giants, he could represent a strong impact option off the bench, and his pace and movement in wide areas could be a valuable asset for either next term.

Bournemouth also dropped into the Championship on the final day, with Dominic Solanke scoring in their 3-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park.

The goal and the result ultimately proved too little too late, both for the Cherries and the Anglo-Nigerian striker, who is now facing up to life in the second tier 18 months after signing in a £19 million deal from Liverpool.

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1:29

Nicol: Going to be a long night of celebrating for Villa

Steve Nicol credits Dean Smith for strengthening Villa's back line and keeping his club in the Premier League.

Three African players shared the Golden Boot last season, as Aubameyang, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane each scored 22 goals.

The Liverpool duo ended this campaign with league winner's medals, but their 2019-20 tallies of 19 and 18 respectively left them well short of Jamie Vardy's haul of 23 goals.

Auba bagged a double in the final-day 3-2 victory over Watford, taking him to 22 goals, emulating his return for the 2018-19 campaign.

It wasn't enough to overhaul the Leicester City man, but Sunday's showing provided ample reminder of the Gabonese striker's enduring quality, as he also contributed an assist for Kieran Tierney's first Premier League -- briefly silencing those who accuse him of being one-dimension.

Doubts about his future -- and rumours of a move away from the Emirates Stadium -- will persist, but Aubameyang's goal haul in such a tumultuous and transitional season for the Gunners represents arguably his best achievement since clinching the Bundesliga golden boot in 2016-17.

Performances like this against Watford on Sunday may well tempt Arsenal to consider Aubameyang's requested terms -- reportedly a three-year deal worth £250,000 per week -- to remain in North London.

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Which Arsenal youngster has the brightest future?

Gab Marcotti and Stewart Robson believe Arsenal's Bukayo Saka is their best young talent.

Said Benrahma has been the outstanding player in the Championship since football's restart, with his quality underpinning Brentford's eight-game winning run as they pushed West Bromwich Albion close in the race for automatic promotion.

The Bees ultimaytely fell short -- losing their final two league games to cede the initiative -- but they were still favourites to defeat Swansea City in their playoff semifinal first leg, which took place on Sunday, having finished 11 points ahead of the Swans during the regular season.

Brentford appeared jaded after missing out on the top two, however, while the Welsh side had momentum heading into the playoffs after pipping Nottingham Forest during an outstanding turnaround on the final day,

Benrahma struggled to get the best out of his teammates at the Liberty Stadium, and veteran Swans forward Andre Ayew rolled back the years to deliver a match-winning display.

Ayew missed a second-half penalty after he was denied by the excellent David Raya, but he made amends with eight minutes to play -- scoring with a delightful left-footed hooked effort from inside the box after outstanding Swans interplay on the edge of the area.

Dede's exploits at Swansea -- 16 goals and seven assists this term - have gone somewhat under the radar in a campaign in which his brother Jordan has recorded a career-best Premier League goals return, but he remains one of the few remaining faces from the Welsh club's time in the top tier, and is playing a key role in their push for a return.

Could the 30-year-old, now far removed from his days as the bright young hope of Marseille, get Swansea over the line and back in the big time during the week ahead?