The simple answer to that question is no. Well, in my opinion anyway. I am all when it comes to the Unai Emery tenure at Aston Villa.
The simple truth is, we may never know if Villa will regret the lack of transfer activity. We could go on to have a poor second half of the season and consider it a missed opportunity. Equally, we could go on to fight for a European place but then some would still go on to say if we signed ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ we could have gone one step further.
Since our promotion in 2019, we have been told very similar lines from various sources within the club. We will only sign players who improve the starting XI. We need to offload the deadwood.
When in reality we end up signing more deadwood and keeping those who are already at the club.
Unai Emery has stated similar but seems to be backing up his words. We no longer seem to be buying players because of their name or for the sake of it.
Frédéric Guilbert has finally departed the club, some three years after his last appearance for the Aston Villa first team. A move that suits both parties. It was one of those moves that weren’t meant to be and Guilbert joined Strasbourg following successful loan spells in the past two seasons.
Joining Guilbert is fellow Frenchman Morgan Sanson who has joined the Ligue 1 side on loan until the end of the season. There is no option to buy and I wouldn’t rule out a return to first-team action at Aston Villa for the midfielder. Emery has stated more than once that he values the 28-year-old and that he needed a run of first-team football. A successful loan spell could see a permanent move elsewhere or a run in the Villa first-team next season.
Marvelous Nakamba was another out the door on loan. The 29-year-old midfielder who has failed to make a single appearance this season has joined Championship side, Luton Town. Luton are chasing the playoffs in the Championship and will hope the Zimbabwe midfielder can help with their challenge. I would be surprised if we saw Nakamba play in a Villa shirt again.
The biggest surprise was probably the departure of Danny Ings for a reported fee rising to around £ 15 million. West Ham will see it as a bargain while Villa will have a huge chunk of wages off their wages. A player, who was regarded highly by many Villa fans, was the second choice to Ollie Watkins under Emery.
Other players like Cameron Archer, Aaron Ramsey (both Middlesbrough) and Louie Barry (Salford) also secured loan deals away from the club as the youngsters look to impress.
Many Villa supporters have commented that they believe it leaves the squad very light. I don’t agree. All six of the departures mentioned have had very little game time and those that did have mainly featured in the cup competitions that we are no longer in. For me, there is more balance within the squad.
Let me explain, the signings of former Real Betis full-back Alex Moreno and ex-Chicago Fire striker Jhon Duran bolster up positions where we lacked competition. They both offer different options to what we already have.
Duran is big and powerful where as Ings was too similar to Watkins. The difference is, you noticed when Watkins was missing, remember the Leeds game once he was substituted, anyone?
Duran is young and may take a while to settle but the recall of Bertrand Traore, who I believe will play up front under Emery means we have four options up front if you also include Leon Bailey.
Moreno on the other hand offers competition for Lucas Digne. I believe that Emery will play both left-backs depending on the opposition. Moreno looks more direct than Digne who will offer us, as I mentioned something different going forward.
Lack of effort
I don’t believe the lack of signings was due to a lack of effort, and neither do I believe it was a failure from anyone at the club. I believe, for once, it was a carefully, well-thought-out plan.
A lot was made of the spending in the Premier League. According to Transfermarkt, £739.49 million was spent in January but when you break it down, Chelsea spent £293.62 million of that. A further £278.34 million was spent by six clubs. More than half the money was spent by 7 clubs, all of a sudden it doesn’t look as busy as Sky Sports would have you believe.
The media would have you believe that Villa was in for loads of players. Moussa Dembele and Mattéo Guendouzi spring to mind. However, Marseille Sporting director Pablo Longoria dismissed those rumours.
“For Guendouzi, we haven’t received a concrete proposal,” he told a press conference, relayed by La Provence.
More work will continue in the summer. There will be more surprise departures as Emery continues to shape his side the way he wants it. The January window wasn’t as busy as I anticipated given the break in the season because of the World Cup.
Let’s play our part, and get fully behind the lads, starting this weekend against Leicester City.