Dean Smith is currently overseeing an Aston Villa side riding the crest of a slump which represents the toughest period of his tenure so far at the club.
A fiendish run of fixtures has certainly not helped in recent weeks. But that aside, performances, which had generally been encouraging despite defeats, have now fallen off a cliff also.
Villa’s summer recruitment was positive and encouraging and each signing being heralded as an important part of the jigsaw. For me, I look at the players we have, and I do think we should be doing better than we are.
There’s no question, several players are falling short at the moment. John McGinn hasn’t played well for several weeks. Tyrone Mings has been responsible for some sloppy mistakes. And Wesley would probably benefit by being taken out of the firing line right now.
The clubs transfer policy was to bring in young players that will likely grow in value. For the most part, I do think most of our players are getting plaudits and enhancing their reputation. Bjorn Engels has been impressive. Both Marvellous Nakamba and Douglas Luiz have shown real signs of quality too. As has the marauding Fred Guilbert. And Trezeguet and Anwar El Ghazi both offer a threat.
But these are players that the club has invested in to grow over the next several years. We probably had much higher hopes for them to hit the ground running than we should’ve expected.
The club was probably hoping to avoid dipping into the January transfer window after a huge outlay in the summer, but the striker situation is probably going to force their hand if we have genuine hopes of survival.
And if that is the case, then I think we have to amend the transfer policy. And for me, that means making a real statement and not investing in potential but splashing out on a more proven goalscorer.
In my opinion, the club missed out massively in the summer by not making a move for Wissam Ben Yedder. The diminutive Frenchman made a move from Sevilla to Monaco for around £35 million, and Villa was linked with a late swoop on deadline day.
Pacey and with a superb strike rate, the move would’ve been ambitious but certainly achievable and would’ve fit the bill exactly on what we’re missing in the attack. Ben Yedder currently has 11 goals in 14 appearances so far this season and is Ligue 1’s top scorer. And it would’ve represented a real statement of intent.
Our two billionaire owners, Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris cannot be faulted and have already stabilised the club and bankrolled a rebuilding of the team. But I can’t help feeling that their next investment has to show that we are looking to really step up a level and compete.
Manchester City is an obvious benchmark. After being taken over by the ambitious Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, they signalled their intent by smashing the British transfer record by signing Robinho. It was a monumental signing, signalling real intent.
Villa’s hand is almost going to be forced into buying a striker due to Wesley’s struggles and no real competition for his place. If that’s the case, to not buy a proven goalscorer and in turn pass up the opportunity to try to attract a player that demonstrates our intent to move forward would be foolish.
So, what are our realistic options? I am a huge fan of Andrea Belotti at Torino and he would be the standout choice for me. Although not blessed with electric pace, the Italian’s goalscoring record is superb and he is in fine form once again for Il Toro this season with 13 goals in 18 games so far. With the Turin outfit always struggling to push through into the upper echelons of Serie A, a switch to the Premier League could well appeal for a new challenge. Would he come? Money talks. And with the club in a strong financial position, it’s entirely possible as long as one of the big boys didn’t hijack the deal.
A player who has also consistently scored goals over the last few years is Real Sociedad’s, Willian Jose. The Brazillian has been improving progressively year on year and bagged himself an impressive 15 goals in La Liga the season before last and he has started extremely well this year again. Whilst, not the paciest option, he has excellent movement and positioning and importantly, he scores goals.
A less likely target would be Atletico Madrid’s, Diego Costa. The ex-Chelsea striker is now 31 and could be tempted by one last big move. His move back to Atleti hasn’t been goal-laden over the last couple of years, but he’s barely been getting meaningful game time at the Wanda Metropolitano and it could be that being the main man once again could reignite him as a short term option.
If we’re looking slightly under the radar, another player I like is Villareal’s Toko Ekambi. The Cameroon striker certainly possesses plenty of pace and is direct with it which usually sees him getting into double figures for goals during a season.
One thing for sure is that Villa need a striker and in that department, you get what you pay for. The benefits of bringing in a marquee signing wouldn’t just be felt in terms of goals either. We need to be doing all we can to convince the likes of Jack Grealish and John McGinn that their futures lie at Villa Park. To do that, the quality of the playing staff need to be constantly improved upon and the club needs to show real ambition. Bringing in a top striker would be an ideal way to do so.