It’s squeaky bum time for Dean Smith and Aston Villa as the Premier League’s ending is finally in sight and the chances of survival are set to go down to the wire.
The Coronavirus pandemic has thrown up multiple problems for football clubs and leagues, including rearranged fixture lists and postponed competitions but financially, ownership issues have been laid bare.
Financial Fair Play rules have been suspended across European football for 12 months to ease the strain on clubs facing huge losses after Covid-19 and whilst spending outside of the club’s means would be unsustainable, Villa have a safety net if they wish to allocate funds whichever league they find themselves in next season.
According to reports, since splashing over £75 million in their first Championship campaign, FFP rules have come dangerously close to punishing Villa with points deductions threatened at one stage or another in the Championship.
If Villa remains in the top-flight they’ll be free to spend what they want on who they want, whether it’ll be what head-coach Dean Smith wants is another debacle altogether. If survival isn’t achieved and the club are relegated for the second time in four years, player turnover will pose even more challenges for Christian Purslow and Smith.
Premier League clubs will discuss the length of this summer’s transfer window during their next conference call on July 9 and the outcome will surely inform the EFL’s decision as well.
If clubs want to utilise their maximum allocation of 12 weeks, they may agree to open the window before the season ends on July 26. Alternatively, clubs may want to close the window beyond October 5, but that would be against the recommendations of UEFA.
What a Championship window would look like
The EFL has not yet announced its plans for the summer window, but it is expected to fall into line with the Premier League’s idea of what a post-COVID-19 transfer window will look like.
For the past two seasons, the Premier League transfer window closed on the Thursday before the first game of the season which may well also be the case for the 2020-2021 season.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has however confirmed the transfer window will not open until the top-flight season ends on July 26.
Currently, there has been no official word on when the window is set to close but any normal season allows up to 12 weeks of transfer activity. This would eat into the new season which is due to start around September 12, according to some reports.
Leaving around a month for transfer delegation and player recruitment really isn’t enough time if Villa are tasked in selling key assets and replacing them for a 46-game Championship slog ahead.
No doubt Purslow will have a plan A and a plan B like he devised last season for Villa’s play-off campaign, but if the worst may happen, efficiency in the transfer window is a must to allow Smith enough time to coordinate a pre-season schedule and make a real fist of promotion at the first time of asking.
There’s no guarantee that Smith will be allowed the chance to replicate what he managed last season, but with a swift turn-around before next season, chopping and changing a manager and management staff could be short-sighted.
Relegation would see Villa sell Jack Grealish for upwards of £50 million whilst other star men John McGinn and Tyrone Mings will also attract interest from elsewhere. FFP’s relaxed laws make spending money more tempting but even without the laws being suspended for a year, Villa’s profitable outlook from players sales will fund the majority of a Championship budget likely to be higher than any other in the league.
Tom Heaton and Welsey are due to miss the beginning of the new season, but if the pair return in the Championship, Villa will have a couple of wildcards to boost a promotion bid with the likes of Ezri Konsa, Matt Targett, Conor Hourihane and Kortney Hause providing some second division experience.
The winter window will run throughout January 2021 as usual, so if Villa feels the need to delve into the market once more, they won’t have to wait long to do so.
What a Premier League window would look like
The Premier League and Championship, League One and Two will likely follow similar transfer window dates and deadlines and if Villa are to remain a top-flight club come August, very little in the way of red tape will disrupt their preparations for on the field planning like the upheaval of relegation would.
What will change is the types of players and possibly the deals Purslow and Smith would like to strike to add players to the group before a mini pre-season ahead of the new campaign.
It remains unclear if the captain and club talisman Grealish will stay at the club with serious interest coming from every angle – Manchester United and Manchester City look set to battle for his signature.
Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens promised promotion back to the Premier League was just the first step and 12 months on they’ve literally proved their worth, financially backing the club through a transfer window that fuelled optimism ahead of Villa’s top-flight return.
Despite speculation linking Grealish with a move away from Villa Park, other key players at the club would remain and Villa could command a higher fee for their star man. Reinvestment in the squad is a must with a disappointing campaign fresh in the minds of club officials and fans alike.
Three promoted Championship sides, currently likely to be Leeds, West Brom and Brentford will only have a month or so to plan for their Premier League assault and if Villa loses Grealish or indeed keep him, they’ll need to rebuild for more success next season just as effectively.
Pre-contacts and loan extensions
The transfer window has already opened on July 1, but only for 24 hours to allow clubs the opportunity to register any pre-agreement and returns from international loans.
Whilst no player was allowed to be registered for the remainder of the season, the period allowed players like Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech to register with their new club.
Villa are themselves waiting to confirm the loan extension of Chelsea midfielder Danny Drinkwater who is desperate to revive his career at Villa Park despite starting slowly. The coaching staff have been impressed with Drinkwater’s fitness levels and application in training which has put him in the frame to contribute to Villa’s survival bid.
Pepe Reina has already agreed to extend his loan deal at Villa for the next six games despite his lack of game time since the Premier League’s resumption last month.