With the opening of the transfer window in just over a month’s time, thoughts are beginning to turn towards another spending spree to ensure a push for a play-off place. Whilst no real names of note have been identified as incoming targets, one name keeps cropping up as a potential outgoing – Rudy Gestede.
For the last few months, rumours involving Hull City and West Bromwich Albion taking an interest in the Benin international have been circulating. It certainly seems that an offer could be forthcoming in January. So what would be the best outcome?
Firstly, from a fan’s point of view, Gestede is one of those players who really seems to provoke a wide range of opinions – from being too lazy, to being a player capable of great things. The truth is that he is both of those things at the very least. There are times when Gestede, perhaps more so last season, is so immobile he may as well be doing the mannequin challenge. For me, there is sometimes an apparent lack of willingness to get involved in the game. His lack of movement leads me to believe he is making no real effort to try to make things happen.
The flip side of this is that on his day he is a real handful, strong and bullying. With the right service into the box, we have seen how deadly he can be in the air. He is also capable with his feet, as a deft chip against Rotherham United earlier in the season demonstrated perfectly.
Whilst all strikers will of course be judged on goals, Gestede does prove his worth in his hold up play. He is a fairly neat player and has showcased some nice flicks and lay-offs during his time at Villa which have led to goals for team-mates, such as a cushioned header into Jack Grealish’s path which enabled him to go on a mazy run and wrap up the 3-0 win against Rotherham United and also the lay-off for Idrissa Gueye to score his only Villa goal in a League Cup victory against Wycombe Wanderers last season. These may seem like insignificant contributions but he does bring team-mates around him into the game.
Gestede didn’t do enough last season, although neither did anyone else. Nevertheless, there were moments when we saw his ability and we know what his strengths are. This season, he has been used in a largely supporting role. He has completed ninety minutes just three times so it is clear that his role at the moment is seen as an impact sub, especially under Steve Bruce. He is still able to boast a haul of four goals so far, making him our second highest scorer, thanks in part to Jonathan Kodjia’s generosity in transferring penalty taking duties on Saturday.
A bid of around £6 million is apparently being readied by West Bromwich Albion, which would mean Aston Villa recouping the amount initially paid for Gestede’s services from Blackburn Rovers. Hull City has a much more attractive carrot to dangle in the form of Abel Hernandez. The chase for the Uruguayan lasted all summer and fell apart due to his hefty wage demands. The Tigers are willing to offload the out of form striker and Gestede could be used as a makeweight to reignite a deal.
Aston Villa will be in a tricky situation come January due to the Africa Cup of Nations, with Jonathan Kodjia, Jordan Ayew and Albert Adomah all set to participate in the competition. Gestede could be a much more influential figure during that time, as could Ross McCormack. It would seem unlikely that Bruce would sanction a move to let Gestede leave at that time in particular. Of course, that is where the Hernandez link comes in: a ready made replacement would certainly be useful.
Despite this, Bruce has already stated that he has enough players in the striker department and, unless there is a spate of injuries in the next month, the club certainly have enough bodies in the squad, perhaps even if Gestede departs. With Ross McCormack and Gabby Agbonlahor in the squad, there are two options ready made to step in, even if Agbonlahor still proves an unpopular choice. January may bring with it a chance for Rushian Hepburn-Murphy to stake a claim also, which is what many supporters would love to see.
There is certainly no smoke without fire and the regularity of the Gestede rumours points to at least an offer being made during January. He is certainly a useful player to have in the squad and we haven’t got anyone else to play that ‘big man’ role. Despite this, I’m not sure if supporters would be overly upset to see him leave. Although he is a likeable character and Villa fans want him to do well, he hasn’t been able to become that Benteke-esque icon fans originally hoped even if, in truth, that was always an unfair expectation.
Bruce may have a big call to make come January. It would seem strange to let Gestede leave without a replacement. Perhaps, at Championship level especially, we would be better off keeping the big man for now. There is still a long way to go and Gestede has enough about him to be an asset during the second half of the season.