Unfinished business?

2

The summer transfer window closes for business at 11 pm on Thursday 31st August and it is unlikely that Aston Villa fans will be treated to much more excitement in the way of signings.

That suits me just fine. Although there is nothing quite like the thrill of following a chase on the final day of the window, in actuality, it generally means that we’re scrambling around in a panic as all our other targets have gone elsewhere or rejected us earlier on in the summer.

However, a rare occurrence has taken place this year and we seem to have concluded much of our incoming business instead of leaving things to the last minute. Things appear to have been wrapped up with last week’s loan deal for Robert Snodgrass.

In fact, the real issues left appear to the concern which of the fringe members of the squad will be departing instead.

So, is there anywhere left to strengthen, or are we all set until January at least? And what of the outgoings?

Goalkeeper

Johnstone looks to be good business.Sam Johnstone’s return for the season was good news and despite the team shipping an unusually high amount of goals so far, the Manchester United loanee has looked in decent form.

Reassuringly, Jed Steer’s performance in the League Cup so far, especially against Colchester United in the first round, indicated that he has stepped up to a level that surpasses Mark Bunn and can be called upon when needed. Right now, the position seems to be adequately covered.

Defence

The most uncertain area of the whole team. If any last minute strengthening is to be done, then this is the area to look at. Nathan Baker’s sale to Bristol City came as a surprise. There were certainly flaws in his game, yet last season he’d proven himself as a reliable option. His departure left us light on numbers.

Samba does seem to have fitness issues.Chris Samba’s pre season form was somewhat unexpected and he rightly earned himself a one year contract. However, we have seen already with his withdrawal at Ashton Gate last Friday evening at half-time that the Congo international is prone to niggling injuries.

With John Terry turning thirty-seven in December and unlikely to play every game, we should be looking at one more quality addition in my opinion.

This brings us onto Tommy Elphick. There is interest in the former Bournemouth man and he is one of those strongly tipped to be off before the window closes but if we aren’t bringing anyone else in, then can we really afford to let him leave?

Elphick has struggled in a Villa shirt. I would worry about relying on him should any long term injuries to others require him to step up. There are promising youth options with Mitchel Clark and Easah Suliman but in a season where promotion is a must, it would be a big ask to rely on them also.

I refuse to include Micah Richards as an alternative option at centre back and would hope that Steve Bruce also feels the same. With no future and still on huge wages, the club would do well to somehow manage to shift the fallen England international in the next couple of days.

Is it time to move Hutton on?As for the full back positions, we are completely lop sided. We have three or four options at right back, yet just one natural left back player in Neil Taylor. For me, Ritchie De Laet and James Bree should be contesting on the right, with De Laet able to fill in for Taylor if needed. It seems that Alan Hutton’s reign at right back has now come to an end. With a number of options we have at right back, Hutton’s services simply aren’t required anymore. I wouldn’t be surprised if any business was done that would see the former Scotland international leave before the deadline.

Midfield

An area where we certainly do not need any more numbers. We actually have too many options and keeping everyone happy will test Bruce over the coming months.

One man who is certainly facing the exit door is Gary Gardner. The twenty-five-year-old just hasn’t hit a level high enough to feature on a regular basis, especially with the wealth of talent competing in the centre of the pitch. Nottingham Forest, among others, are reportedly interested and whilst it would be sad to see an academy graduate leave, there is no room for sentiment and a move would be best for everyone involved.

Despite the surplus of players in midfield, it is tough to pick anyone else out who I’d be happy to leave. Rumours that Albert Adomah could be a casualty seem strange to me after he proved his usefulness last season with a haul of ten assists. Bruce has mentioned that the club still needs to balance the books, however, and so perhaps we shouldn’t be overly surprised if Adomah does leave the club.

Attack

Hogan has scored 3 in 2 cup games this season.Despite four goal hauls against Norwich in the Championship and Wigan in the League Cup, you feel that scoring is still an issue for Villa. However, we also know that simply buying the league’s top goal scoring talent doesn’t necessarily equate to success either.

Jonathan Kodjia is still a month or so from returning. This will see Scott Hogan, Keinan Davis and Gabriel Agbonlahor tussle for starting roles until then.

Davis’ impact is particularly timely and could save the club dipping into the market for a new forward. Whilst he still hasn’t gotten off the mark yet, his performances have been extremely encouraging. Bruce may need to gamble a little and hope that the goals will follow.

Likewise for Hogan. Despite strong showings in the League Cup against lower league opposition, the £9million signing from Brentford is still to rattle the onion bag in the Championship. He has been carving out chances, however, and it would seem a matter of time before the goals come.

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy is also an option still yet his progress seems consistently hampered by injury. It is unlikely that he will make an impact just yet, so a loan move to get first team football could prove a good bit of business for both player and club.

McCormack on his way?The exit seems to be looming large for Ross McCormack. I can’t remember a signing that I’ve felt so disappointed and let down by. The man himself should feel ashamed of his time at Villa. In what were the biggest transfer of his career and a move that potentially gave him a realistic chance to finally play Premier League football, McCormack has completely blown it. Poor attitude, fitness issues and that whole ‘gate-gate’ episode have seen him probably play his last game in a Villa shirt.

Despite all that, however, Bruce still left the door open for him this season and the Scot just hasn’t stepped up and responded anywhere near enough. An outlay of £12million will not be recouped for a thirty-one-year-old and if Villa can find anyone with the money to spend even half of that, they’d have done well. In these situations, a loan move is the best business Villa can hope for.

Yet we could be rescued by Sunderland, who have the cash to spend after banking almost £100million for finishing bottom of the Premier League last season and with an additional £50million in parachute payments for this season alone, the Mackems could certainly afford a fee of £6 or £7 million which would represent a fair return.

Conclusion

It should be a fairly quiet week for incoming transfers. Bruce would undoubtedly love to do further business if more money was available and it may be a good thing that Financial Fair Play regulations stop a continued bloating of the squad. A bolster to the defensive ranks is all that I’d like to see and if some of the expected outgoings actually materialise, we may see just one more dip into the market.

 

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