Aston Villa has wasted little time in reshaping the squad that won promotion into the Premier League. Spanish playmaker Jota has been brought in from bitter rivals Birmingham City. A deal which sees Gary Gardner move in the other direction whilst Anwar El Ghazi has now joined us on a permanent deal.
The club also confirmed that none of the players that are coming to the end of their contract at the end of this month will be offered fresh terms. In addition to this, Villa has made good use of their financial muscle to finally rid themselves of Ross McCormack.
Whilst some players such as McCormack and Micah Richards made almost zero contribution in our entire stay in the Championship, this exodus of other useful players means that we will definitely need to bring in a significant amount of signings to replenish the squad depth over the summer.
Of course, with this being the case, the rumour mill is in overdrive already. At this point, we can be pretty confident that Kortney Hause will become signing number three at any moment. And every Villan has their fingers crossed that the club can agree on a fee with Bournemouth to seal a deal for the talismanic Tyrone Mings.
Free for all
After that, it’s a bit of a free for all in terms of reported targets. And some supporters are not keen on where the media is reporting that Villa are going to be doing their summer shopping.
Due to Dean Smith’s Brentford links, Jota’s arrival seems to have sparked off a flurry of rumours centering around various Bee’s players. Neal Maupay will set us back £20 million apparently. There have also been reports that the club has bid £9 million for Said Benrahma. Free agents Yoann Barbet and Josh McEachran are also being touted as possible arrivals.
As well as this, Villa are being linked with plenty of other Championship players such a Leeds United striker Kemar Roofe, Nottingham Forest’s Joe Lolley and even newly promoted Charlton Athletic’s Joe Aribo. Several outlets even report a possible move for Tom Bayliss from League One homeless outfit Coventry City.
All in all, the rumours have prompted a slight cause for concern amongst some supporters that the club is chasing players below the required standard. Where are the big name links? Why are we shopping in the bargain basement? We’re back in the big time after all!
Whilst I do agree the buying the entire Brentford team will not serve us particularly well, it is important to remember that the vast majority of these rumours are simply that; rumours.
It’s also important to remember that Villa needs to add depth after releasing such a large portion of the squad. Not every link is going to be for a £30 million star striker. Although those links to Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez are pretty exciting, although seemingly generated by his people to create a bidding frenzy.
To be honest, though, I quite like the approach that Smith appears to be taking. The rumours will be plentiful and mostly wrong, but what we do know for sure is the nature of Villa’s transfer policy. Smith is looking for young, quick players with potential who he can shape and improve. Isn’t that what we’ve wanted for years?
We’ve had all sorts of transfer policies over the years. The big money signings are exciting of course, but we usually get it so badly wrong. We either end up with a dud on our hands on a big contract or buy the player at an overinflated price as he’s nearing 30 and with little or no resale value.
Shopping in lesser leagues can be fruitful. You only have to see how a progressive coach such as Eddie Howe at Bournemouth has turned the likes of Ryan Fraser, David Brooks and Lewis Cook into prized Premier League assets.
When we’ve been forced to shop in the lower leagues before it was because Randy Lerner refused to put any money into the club. We ended up with the likes of Jordan Bowery and Joe Bennett. Even worse, when venturing abroad on the cheap, we picked up Aleksander Tonev and Jose Crespo. Our hands were tied.
This time, it is our choice. There is money available which ensures being able to pluck from the upper echelons of the talent that is capable of stepping up a level. And we have a manager who is dedicated to coaching players and improving them. That is a huge difference to anything we’ve had before. We are far from scrambling in the bargain basement and, as highlighted previously, there are plenty of examples of players with no previous Premier League experience who have adapted completely. It’s by no means a prerequisite for success.
However, it would be a gamble for Smith to not add some top-flight experience also and as the summer goes on I fully expect the manager to create a vibrant and exciting squad which will contain some players with that extra little bit of know-how. The squad is thin at the moment; not every signing will be a marquee one. The groundwork is being laid for depth as well right now.
It’s early days yet and the media are throwing everything at us with some lazy links just to generate some stories to fill column inches and create click bait. We will not sign four or five players from Brentford. Maybe one or two though!
This is our most exciting summer for years. Rather than get worked up about not signing superstars at every turn, we should enjoy the idea that we have a manager that is looking to create a group of players who he sees fit to play his energetic and exciting brand of football. Young, quick and dynamic. That’s what we’ll be getting, whoever and wherever they come in from.
Right now, for me, it’s definitely a case of ‘In Smith We Trust’. I can’t wait to see the team he builds for our Premier League return.