Apart from Dr Xia’s incessant tweeting, it has been a fairly quiet week for Villa fans. We all expected a mad summer of comings and goings and crazy rumours but, if anything, it’s been a dull summer on the transfer front, worryingly so for many fans.
There are plenty of players who really have to go and a few positions that need to be filled before the season kicks off but one area where we have plenty of depth is left back.
Who is battling for the spot?
Last season we only really had one option from January onwards – Aly Cissokho. Since his return from loan in January he was a fixture in the starting XI, not a huge surprise when his only real competition was Kieran Richardson. However, two younger models have returned to the fold looking to take his place in the shape of Joe Bennett and Jordan Amavi.
Bennett was on loan all of last season, first at AFC Bournemouth where he didn’t get a look in and then at Sheffield Wednesday where his impact was minimal. He’s now back and has featured heavily in pre-season, scoring a couple of free kicks in Austria, and looks hell bent on getting back into the Villa first team.
Amavi’s season was of course cruelly cut short while playing for France’s Under 21s, which led to him missing the majority of the season with a knee injury. It is looking likely that Amavi will stay at Villa Park this season, after the owner reassured fans in a tweet last week.
How will they line up?
There is still time in the window for things to changes but, assuming all three are still with the club come September, I’d expect to see Amavi taking the left back spot. He is yet to play any part in the warm up games as he’s not quite up to match fitness so there’s a fair chance that the Sheffield Wednesday game on August 7th will come too soon for the young Frenchman. In that case, I’d like to see Joe Bennett given the role.
Having three potential first choice left backs is odd, especially when you consider the glaring gaps we have elsewhere in the squad. I expected Cissokho to move on this summer but, like so many of last seasons under-performers, a move away from B6 looks a long way off for Cissokho. A player of his experience won’t want to play second (or third) fiddle so Di Matteo either needs to move him on or fit him into the team.
An alternative approach
Another option would be to play one of the players out of position.
To be honest, Cissokho is by far the most defensive of the three and I really wouldn’t want to risk playing him anywhere else.
Both Amavi and Bennett are known for their attacking prowess so a move into wide midfield for either of them wouldn’t be out of the question. Bennett did try that role, with limited success, under Paul Lambert but Amavi’s marauding runs and great crossing ability could see him move into a more attacking role with ease. Perhaps he could become the French Gareth Bale…
Another option would be to move Amavi over to right back to fill a problem area. With really only Hutton and Bacuna to choose from at the moment, this is one area most Villa fans recognise as a weak position for the team and Amavi has regularly played there for his national side’s Under 21s.
It’s a good problem for Roberto Di Matteo to have but my only concern is that, despite Dr Xia’s supposed confirmation that he’d remain a Villan, we are covering ourselves in case a big bid comes in for Amavi.
Personally, it seems the best thing for the team would be to move Cissokho on and utilise two hungry and talented players, after making sure we keep Amavi at all costs.