Thursday brings down the curtain on the latest transfer window, meaning the next four days are Dean Smith’s last chance to add to the squad ahead a huge and somewhat vital ending to the 2018-19 campaign.
The playoff final heartbreak of last season was just the start of the fallout that would result from short term gambles and an almost arrogant presumption that promotion would happen.
Since then we’ve seen a change of ownership and a change in manager in the form of Dean Smith. The initial improvement often seen in a change of manager arrived and has plateaued of late with a flurry of injuries and repeated mistakes defensively. It shouldn’t be a huge cause for panic as panic often breeds a knee-jerk reaction.
In recent years, January has seen elevated fees and short term options which again has been the biggest issue at Villa Park for too many years, be it the January or the summer window.
As always, there are a cluster of fans that are beginning to already give up and even give Smith some pretty strong criticism that in some cases is completely unfair.
The reason the next four days are potentially so vital are that not only does Smith have the chance to sort out some of the weak links, most notably in defence, but he needs to be thinking long term as to whether any of these purchases will fit the mould should we miss out on promotion or even manage to make it which I personally feels unlikely as things stand.
Villa also need to give Smith time as the long term planning needs to be executed and put at the forefront of whatever we end up achieving come May time. Smith needs to be allowed to build a philosophy around players that will fight for the cause and work with his style. Obviously, he’s not had a window of his own to do anything up until now. Working with players from the Bruce era and before, teams that ultimately have massively underachieved with some picking up extortionate wages, his hands have been somewhat tied.
Having met Christian Purslow at the recent FCG meetings, I strongly believe that the right work is being done to put in the foundations for long term success which isn’t “Champions League in three years” or “Europe in two” etc. we need to face up to the fact that we are a Championship side that needs to not only get promoted but to re-establish itself both at that level and build back the reputation of being a Premier League team again.
Without trying to sound negative, the recent results point towards another year in the Championship and I tried to think of who I’d both release and who I’d expect to leave. Worryingly, the amount of players left was a clear indication of how we have both underachieved and gambled on names over potential. It would pretty much be a rebuild of the team from top to bottom.
This brings me back to the next four days and the positive view that we somehow manage to get promoted.
Fulham went on an incredible run and deservedly went up last season and now look like they could be coming straight back down again. Smith needs to be looking at players that will not only enhance the side and give us an improved chance at succeeding this year, but players that can also play at the next level. If they are loans, options need to be added in. I’m confident in the board and the system but I don’t want to see another Yannick Bolasie incident, where the return compared to wages was ultimately shocking.
They have to be players that fit the mould of a will to win and wanting to play for Villa. Robert Snodgrass was a great example of someone that came in and gave 100% for the cause and for the shirt.
At the time of writing, this mornings links include Gary Cahill and Jonjo Shelvey amongst others.
Whilst on the face of things, both may seem huge upgrades with their Premier League experience, a promotion in what was arguably Shelvey’s best season and their own attributes in defending and passing respectively, could they hide behind the wage packet should things begin to go wrong?
Personally I can’t see either happening for what it’s worth but if they are indeed potential options they could easily be the latest in a long line of short term gambles.
Ultimately, time will tell and time is what Smith needs. Daniel Farke at Norwich is just one example of someone written off until he got his own team in. Currently in second place when they weren’t really even a consideration for most people where promotion was concerned this season.
My own hopes for Thursday:
1) Defence is strengthened above all else. Collectively still a shambles. Only two teams have conceded more this season.
2) Tammy Abraham stays. I still feel like in the chaos of a January window, someone may roll the dice. Another two goals yesterday add to his cause.
CDM – for me it’s become one the most vital positions in the modern game. It’s not that we don’t have any one that can play in that position but I would argue whether we have a consistent performer with the stamina to play 90 minutes each week.
Grealish coming back may push McGinn deeper but he still adds a lot to the attack.
Whelan, Jedinak and Bjarnason can all fill in but fitness and pace week in week out remain unpredictable.
Yesterday was hopefully a big lift and you could see the reactions of Abraham and McGinn amongst others at full time show what it means to those that care.
I’m strangely looking forward to Thursday as I feel we will see some new faces and I’m 100% sure someone will be seeing Ronaldo or Messi at the Aston Tesco in the coming days!