While our player are currently increasing their fitness levels in the heat of Texas, something else has drastically decreased over the last couple of days: the number of rumours linking us with everybody currently placed in the discount section of the transfer market. The media knows that while almost everyone involved with Villa is out of the country there won’t be much happening related to transfers with the only possible exception being Antonio Luna, who was left behind and is said to be close to sealing a loan move away from Birmingham. However, I am sure that behind the scenes there will be a lot of different players’ situations being monitored and further action may be taken once the team and staff are back in Birmingham.
It might be hard to say exactly which players are on Villa’s radar but, generally speaking, I am certain that a central, defensive midfielder is very high up on the wishlist, with wingers and strikers also under consideration. Many will agree that we are lacking a midfield enforcer – a physically strong player in the middle of the park with good passing and vision. In my opinion, this is the one position where we should put our focus and invest the money, should there be any of it available. This means that I would understand if we did not bring in any more players apart from this midfielder. However, with (scoring) strikers being an important part of every team, one might ask if our forwards are sufficient and if we could really do without any reinforcements in this area.
A point that should not be missed is that a “reinforcement” – and not a cheap one – has already been added to the strike force in Darren Bent. It looks like the decision to bring him back in to the fold might actually pay off. While there is still some way to go from pre-season to weekly Premier League action, I could see him filling in for our two main strikers, who are both currently injured. Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak are well on their way to recovery but it will take a few more weeks, or even months, before they are back on the pitch and scoring regularly. A risk remains with Bent being very much an unknown quantity after the last two seasons. Even with two important players sidelined, we have a way to reduce that risk: Paul Lambert has recently played his remaining forwards, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann, in more central roles and, while both were far from their best during most of last campaign, at least the Austrian has shown signs of improvement especially when playing centrally. For Gabby the time has now come to up his game not only to secure his spot in the starting line-up but also a new contract. One more option appeared towards the end of last season when Callum Robinson made a huge step towards first team football, featuring in the squad on a regular basis. His omission from the current Texas tour was slightly surprising yet the talent is there for everyone to see and he should get his chances here and there once the new season has begun.
Considering these positive developments in the strikers’ department and the low budget we are currently dealing with, I don’t see any imminent reason to bring in another forward. Should we decide that after offloading Holt, Bowery, Delfouneso and Helenius (temporarily) that we are in need of another striker, there are three types of players I could see us having a look at:
1. The new player would be an improvement on every striker already in the team. Such a player would probably not come cheaply, making this scenario rather unlikely.
2. He would provide competition and cover in more than just the centre forward position and could therefore be utilised in other areas of the pitch if needed. This player would most likely fit right in financially with the majority of the signings made by Lambert and be viewed as a risk worth taking.
3. The low-budget striker who would not complain if others are called upon ahead of him and who would give his all. We had players of this category before and have just released a few of them. We do not need any “squad fillers”, with our squad already too big to meet Premier League regulations. Signing a player of this type would be unnecessary in our situation with a tight budget and a good youth department.
In conclusion, I think that if a striker will be joining us, he will probably combine the positions centre forward and winger. Such a transfer could possibly be a loan and completed once we have sealed a deal for a defensive midfielder. This would take Villa to the maximum number of incoming transfers I can envisage this summer and I don’t think we need any more players at this point in time. We should, however, make sure that the player(s) we are likely to sign have a high chance of success. This is not an easy task but I am optimistic that the people responsible for its completion will ensure fans have reasons for be cheerful.