All teams at some stage lose a cult hero or player they feel cannot possibly replaced. In most circumstances, the monies received can be viewed as badly spent in a rash spending spree. When Liverpool lost Fernando Torres to Chelsea for some £50 million, much of that fee went on Andy Carrol, with later addictions in the mould of Stewart Downing & Charlie Adam. None of these signings were successful, and all moved on due to poor form or simple lack of quality. The fact that Luis Suarez was signed shortly after Nando left was the only bright note in that winter window. Jordan Henderson joining within the next window can also be seen as a success. When Luis Suarez eventually left after a tremendous spell as a Liverpool player, the likes of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert & Mario Balotelli were recruited, which again shows a lack of ambition in the replacements. Tottenham famously spent all the Gareth Bale money on a wide selection of players that disrupted the squad, leading to further stalling in the progression. With the likes of Érik Lamela, Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Étienne Capoue, Nacer Chadli, Vlad Chiricheș coming in, it can be argued that none were a success. The only smart money spent that summer was on the now departed Christian Eriksen.
Aston Villa are a legendary English club who belong in the top tier of football. When they dropped into the Championship, much needed to change in order for them to fully establish themselves once more. The new ownership has done great things, and in Dean Smith, they have found an up and coming coach who has been able to build & galvanise a good squad of players. Last season saw some spectacular results, some good results and some poor showings. It was clear that despite the sprinkling of quality within the first team, that further depth and options were needed to really push themselves into a consistent top half finish within the Premier League.
Jack Grealish represents a new wave of player, where most wingers or inside forwards play inverted as part of a front three. His ability to break lines, ball carry and be the instigator of much of Villa’s play made him a firm fan favourite. With certain teams (sitting higher up the league) scrambling to meet their homegrown quota, Villa were able to play it cool when Manchester City made their Grealish admiration clear. Aston Villa are now run by wealthy had ambitious owners, and were able to stand fast with their own valuation of Jack Grealish. For a fee of £100 million, Villa should be pleased with the deal, with the player staying respectful to his club throughout the process. In massive deals there can be huge animosity, and the Grealish transfer is looking far more amicable and less messy that the ongoing Harry Kane saga.
As is now common in major transactions, Aston Villa appeared willing to part with their man only once certain incoming deals could be orchestrated. The knowledge of Villa having received vast sums can sometimes add a premium when looking to spend that money. Villa should be applauded for their business, and it appears that more recruitments could enter the Villa Park squad, prior to the window closing.
The initial signing of former Norwich City playmaker, Emi Buendía, came nice and early for the Villans. In a swift deal that saw Emi choose the claret and blue over Arsenal, it shows the ambition and pull of the Midlands club. Emi Buendía has a skill set not dissimilar to the out going Grealish, and it was a curious thought as to how the two may operate together. The clarity that Grealish leaving has allowed, means Buendía will most likely play in the 10 position, in behind another new recruit, Danny Ings. Emi Buendía signing for somewhere in the region of £35 million represents smart business that should allow creative play to continue within the side. At 24 years of age, they have a player about to enter his prime years within a team ready to launch themselves into the leagues top half.
Leon Bailey was once heralded as a world star in the making. With some explosive qualities, his star waned somewhat during an inconsistent spell at Bayer Leverkusen. Aston Villa may have been able to take advantage of a stagnating market, with the potential of Bailey still high enough to make the £25 million fee relatively low risk. His ability to offer both width from the right & surges inside when the final third, should give Villa more variation in their patterns of play. With much of Villa’s play linked to Grealish from the left or central positions, the right side often became an untapped avenue to attack. Matty Cash has enjoyed a great start to his Villa career, and his advancing runs on the outside of Bailey should cause multiple problems for opposing teams. For a player that turns 24 years old this week, it is another smart piece of business by Aston Villa.
The latest transfer rose from rumour to absolute certainty, almost as soon as the Grealish deal was confirmed. Danny Ings becoming a Villa player is something that all Villans should be excited about. With a proven scorer and veteran striker within their ranks, the near £30 million deal sees him leave Southampton, in a very good piece of business. With only 1 year left on his Saints contract, Ings was able to engineer a move to Villa, that will see a complete reshaping of their forward line. His recruitment will no doubt see the impressive Ollie Watkins move into a more familiar left inside forward position, once occupied by Grealish. Watkins’ ability to drive with the ball and break the lines will suit his game fair more, with his common Villa position as center forward not always suiting his preferred game.
A system change is assured, and with the incoming signings, Villa should be overjoyed with their summer business. The raw nature of cult hero’s leaving will soon wash away once Villas new forward line are unleashed. With a strong midfield of John McGinn & Douglas Luiz, the team is already looking better equipped for a long season.
Further additions will no doubt be made, but as Jack Grealish leaves in search of prosperity, Aston Villa fans should look forward to a season where their side has been able to improve, reshape and build for a more consistent season.