It’s that time of the year again when ITK’s appear from their winter hibernation and our ‘click bait’ inspired media reach for the regurgitate button on their computers.
Or maybe I’ve just become extremely cynical in my advancing years.
No matter how much we try not to, as fans we repeatedly fall for the rumours because we want to believe that our club is going to improve by signing quality players.
Often though we are left disappointed and that’s been particularly true at Villa over recent years where other clubs have prospered by picking up players on the cheap from us after we’ve paid far too much money – that is until Sawaris and Edens arrived on the scene.
The transfer window officially opens on Wednesday but I suspect that the European Championship will mean that transfer activity is likely to be limited until mid July after the Euros finish. In this regard, Villa have been fast off the mark to secure a main target outbidding Arsenal in the process which in itself is another example of how our owners are changing the way in which the club acts and behaves. I just wonder, though, how much influence Emi Martinez may have had in ‘helping’ Buendia to make up his mind?
It’s a long time since we can reflect on a transfer window where, with perhaps the exception of Barkley on loan, every player brought in last summer has not only contributed to the improvement in quality of the squad but have increased in value – even Watkins at £28m looks a cracking investment. The mark of a good business is knowing that it cannot stand still and we’ve seen continual improvements at management level as well – Johan Lange and Mark Harrison to name but two. Now we’re seeing changes in our scouting system which seems to be moving to a more targeted (analytic driven) approach to finding senior players whilst retaining a traditional approach to searching for young talent to add to the Academy – which is already demonstrating significant improvement in quality as demonstrated by winning the FA Youth Cup in such a commanding and exciting style.
So the reflections are clear and offering, at last, the bright future promised in the past but not delivered.
Back to the upcoming transfer window.
Heaton, Elmo and Taylor have left the club having not been offered new contracts – although that might not have been the case with Heaton. Hourihane and Guilbert will be returning from their respective loan spells as will Kalinic and it remains to be seen whether they will leave the club during this window. Of the three it seems that Hourihane and Kalinic may well make their loans permanent. Guilbert, I think will stay with the club and provide competition for Cash and with Kessler ready to step up will avoid Villa having to part with money for a right back.
Every member of the FA Youth Cup-winning team has been retained and quite rightly so. There are a number that will be challenging for a start in the first team including the aforementioned Kessler, Louie Barry, Carney Chukwuemeka and Aaron Ramsey. However the club may decide they need to go out on loan and have appointed Mile Jedinak as Loan Player Development Coach.
Question marks remain around Wesley and Davis and I expect the latter to go out on loan to a Championship club. For Wesley, who did suffer a horrific knee injury, pre-season is going to be make or break but, having splashed out £22m on him, I can’t see Villa giving up on their investment just yet.
This transfer window is another one in which we want to see a continued progression. The first window back in the Premiership was about quantity, the second added some real quality but was also about adding to squad depth. I can’t see us messing with the team too much but rather looking to build on quality with three, maybe four, really good buys.
What do we need – an attacking, high quality, wide player was generally seen as a must and that’s been filled by Buendia – it should also finally squash the Milot Rashica rumours. A defensive midfielder and a centre-forward are also high on the must buy list, whilst a left back to provide competition / cover for Targett is a requirement.
Ward-Prowse would be an excellent buy for the defensive mid-field player although Southampton have made it clear he’s not available. However, Villa are a different proposition now and Southampton may not be able to fend off a big offer should it materialise. We’ve shown with Buendia that we are an attractive proposition and can now compete with the ‘big boys’ in the transfer market.
I like Abraham but is he too similar to Watkins? I note that Chris Wood has been mentioned. He’s more of an old fashioned centre forward, strong in the air and would surely compliment Watkins style of play. He is also likely to cost significantly less than Abraham, although at 29 he might not fit the Villa transfer model!
I will leave others to suggest a left back as I literally have no idea who we might turn to.
And to finish – a cautionary tale. It was reported that Milot Rashica had turned down a move to Villa last summer as ‘he didn’t want to be involved in a relegation battle’ preferring to stay with Werder Bremen (who had themselves only just avoided relegation from the Bundesliga in the 19-20 season). Ironic then, that he finds himself in a relegation battle with Bremen eventually relegated to Bundesliga 2!
It’s all about choices – isn’t it?