It’s January, so that means the return of transfer madness! It means constantly refreshing Twitter and watching sketchy YouTube videos of players you’ve never heard of banging in goals to the sound of dreadful European dance music. It’s basically every football fan’s favourite time of year.
For Villa fans, it’s usually a time to make up fantasy starting XIs with our dream transfer targets. This January we’re in an odd situation. At the time of writing we’re nine points from safety and six points adrift at the bottom of the league. Although the win over Crystal Palace was a much needed moment of relief and joy for us and was followed by a point against the high-flying Foxes, is it realistic to think we can stay up?
We have two choices this window: roll the dice and use as much of Lerner’s cash as he’s prepared to provide to bring in big names in order to try to achieve the seemingly impossible or consolidate and strengthen modestly with one eye on the Championship. Our squad is in such a position that a third choice, do nothing, is really not an option.
Rolling the dice
You can’t blame any fan for wanting Rémi Garde to get Randy Lerner’s chequebook out and go nuts. In reality, we just aren’t an attractive prospect for the sort of quality players we need. We would need to look at expensive short term loans like Debuchy who was linked heavily with a move to Aston Villa at the start of the window. This rumour died but it has now resurfaced and looks likely to happen. There is no doubt that the right back position is a big weakness in the current side and that he would improve the first team.
To pay his wages and foot a probable six or seven figure loan fee is a huge gamble. He’ll leave in May and we’ll still be relegated, just poorer and in need of a right back. Mathieu Debuchy won’t keep us up on his own.
Fans cried out for Charlie Austin, who has now joined Southampton for just £4 million, but would he have ever joined a team that is odds on for relegation? The only way to get players like him is to chuck big money their way with relegation release causes. This could hurt the club when they leave in the summer and we’re out of pocket and need to rebuild for the Championship without them.
Plan for the drop
I’m not one to admit defeat, but even with the win against Crystal Palace and a draw against Leicester City our prospects still look dire. The teams around us aren’t as weak as in previous years and it will take something quite incredible for us to stay up.
So we are in a unique position; we can get a head start on our Championship preparations. The team needs reinforcements now, so why not look at players who can strengthen the team in the short term and who will also do a job in the second tier? We’ll have to spend but paying out for players performing in the Championship now like Dominic Iorfa, the right back at Wolverhampton Wanderers, would be a sensible approach. The fee might be relatively high but his wages will be modest and he’ll stick around for the promotion push next year.
It’s not a glamorous tactic, and it is one that will probably get a few fans’ backs up, but if it means we bounce straight back up stronger then I’m all for it.