Despite the concerns raised over our lack of activity in the transfer market, isn’t the reality that very few transfers, within the EPL, have actually been concluded and, might I add, none relating to players we might have an interest in or would be interested in joining us.
Should we be concerned? – not in my view; lots of ‘click bait’ rubbish much of which seems to be regurgitated window after window.
The fees being bandied around – mainly by the journos it has to be said – are bizarre in the extreme given the impact of COVID on the finances of pretty much every club in the EPL. Surely these daft numbers have to become more realistic over time even given the disproportionate amount of TV money being thrown around?
This window is arguably the most critical for Villa in many years. We survived against all the odds and now we have to take advantage of that. Purslow is on record as saying that promotion was a year ahead of the plan so, having survived, I might argue we are still a year ahead – but we are still several years behind the majority of the ‘new boys’ in the EPL. Looking around though, there are a number of teams no better than us in terms of ability but being able to draw on their EPL years of experience.
Are Palace, Brighton, West Ham, Newcastle et al that much better then us? More experienced, more savvy maybe – but better? Teams like Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and United are in transition – even City. So, it seems to me, that we have a great opportunity to cement and even advance on that year in hand – but to do so we have to get our transfer dealings spot on. No pressure on Lange, Mackenzie and Smith then!
One thing is certain, we can’t afford to be sentimental; something we have possibly all been guilty of in the past. When I say sentimental it’s about recognising that to improve we must buy new players that will challenge our existing squad – no matter who that might be. So, for instance, there is no point in buying a new midfielder that can’t challenge McGinn, Luiz or even Grealish – buying squad fillers or players that pay homage to ‘fan favourites’ is not the answer nor will it improve us as a team. Smith, Lange and Mackenzie have to demonstrate a ruthless streak in the market, both in selecting targets and negotiating the deals.
And that brings me nicely onto where we need to concentrate our recruitment efforts.
From a general point of view then we have to believe that our existing squad has improved through a year’s experience of playing in the EPL and any player that has clearly not responded to the challenge should be shown the door – Jota, Lansbury, El Ghazi are examples that readily spring to mind – I’m sure there are others.
Two key positions leap out – striker and goal keeper. Last season we left ourselves vulnerable in both positions for differing reasons – a surplus of average goal keepers and a lack of strikers – is it any wonder that we were found out? We cannot afford to make the same mistakes in this transfer window.
OLL has raised a perfectly valid question in asking why Dyche was prepared to let Heaton go for a relatively modest fee. Apart from OLL’s view that Heaton, statistically at least, makes far too many mistakes , he also has a poor fitness record as does Steer. We bought lots of goal keepers but our transfer dealings meant we were relying on Heaton staying fit otherwise we would fall back on the relatively inexperienced and injury prone Steer and after that Nyland and Kalinic – need I say more? In my view, we need to recruit a new and top quality No. 1 – if Heaton wants the shirt then he has to prove to be better.
Then there’s the absolutely key striker position. Having acquired the inexperienced Wesley for £22m we failed dismally to add to our strikers in the last window. In fact we either sold or loaned out all our other strikers apart for Davis – who, whilst good at holding up the ball, is both woeful at finishing and another sick note. Is it any surprise therefore when we ended up without a single striker to lead the line?
Had Trezegeut not suddenly found his shooting boots then all would have been lost.
The number of Championship strikers that have moved to the EPL on the back of big fees is extensive. What is also true is the majority have failed to live up to their billing. It’s one thing having scored 20+ goals in the Championship and another repeating that in the EPL.
We have an unenviable record in this regard, McCormack, Kodjia, Hogan all came for big fees and failed to live up to their billing. A prime example is Hogan; Smith was happy to let Hogan leave Brentford to join us for a large fee and having joined the club himself was quick to push Hogan out on loan.
So why would Watkins be any different – particularly at a mooted fee of £25m+? Or am I just being overly negative? I have no problem with Watkins joining to strengthen our striking options but not at £25m+ nor as our primary striker. Maybe alongside a cheap deal for Callum Wilson it might make sense?
And then there’s Benrahma – another player quoted at £25m+ – but is he really going to significantly improve on what we already have?
The challenge is for Lange et al to significantly improve the squad – not to just spend large bucks adding names. It remains to be seen whether the mistakes of last summer’s window are avoided this term.
So new announcements would be welcome but not at any price.