A frustrating outing against Brentford saw Villa once again squander a lead and fail to get anything from the match. The fact Villa controlled large portions of the affair only compounded supporters’ disappointment. And so we now have “Gerrard’s First Test” becoming the dominant narrative.

I suppose there’s nothing wrong with the assessment, but as you’ve heard me say, I don’t necessarily find any of this surprising. And Steven Gerrard probably doesn’t, either. The squad is the squad, and despite pressure from above to achieve more now, Villa are still mid-table quality. You can tweak the system a bit, set different standards, emphasize different things, but you’re still working with the same clay. And unless Smith was a complete rube, there’s aren’t really any Ming Dynasty treasures to be unearthed by a master’s hand. If there is a better team in what we’ve got, it’s going to take a little time, some luck, and a change in mentality.

We Spent £300m, So Why Are Villa Struggling?
People can and do talk about the money spent and that’s fair. Thomas Frank obviously had a little pop. You’ll know I think the number is deceiving because of the overhaul coming out of the Championship. Villa had to buy a new team on the cheap rather than come up with a core assembled and integrated in the cauldron that is the Championship. It made for a rocky start. But it was a start even though it also wasn’t the most solid foundation to build on.

There were more targeted (and expensive buys on average) in year two of a five-year plan, and these were intended to upgrade key positions. Watkins, Cash, and Martinez, with Sanson and Traoré added along the way for still relatively budget prices at the PL level. Barkley was brought in on loan. It started well enough, but then injuries and covid derailed the second half of the season. Barkley turned out to be a bust.

But once Villa were targeting £25m-£35m players, the numbers brought in were obviously going to decrease. This is the nature of an iterative process spanning five years. You still had, on paper, Trez and El Ghazi. Davis as the only backup striker. And then Grealish was gone. Fabulous fee, yes, but since there was no additional spending, that essentially offset the £100m on his “replacements,” leaving Villa with a net more like £230m over three years. Either way, £330m or £230m, in context, it hasn’t actually been a lot. Sounds like it, but it isn’t really given needs at basically every position.

By comparison, Chelsea’s strike force of Lukaku, Havertz, Ziyech, Pulisic, and Werner cost a combined £300m and change.

So there’s that.

A Hard Look At Recruitment Required
The trick is where the money has gone, ie the quality and type of recruitment. Most everyone agrees Suso had decidedly mixed success at best, and was let go. Lange came in, everyone was excited. But one now has to question Traoré and perhaps Bailey, Ings, even Buendia. Me, I think Buendia will come good. Sanson? Signs of promise.

But when we wonder why teams with much lower budgets are performing as well as Villa, it comes down to recruitment of the right sort of player. No one really seems to know who pulled the trigger on many of these deals. At first we thought Dean Smith had the final say, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case.

Traoré and Bailey, for example, don’t seem like Smith players. You understand why they could be identified to play in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, but neither is particularly strong, and neither has any meaningful experience in English football. Bailey of course, we’ve barely seen. But some of these other clubs we’re comparing ourselves to have spent what they have on the things we’d supposedly set as our standard: heart, mentality, work-rate, experience in the PL, or at least English football. Ings fits that bill, have always admired him, but he wasn’t needed as much as midfield reinforcements. Wesley, well, that didn’t seem like a Smith buy, either.

So yeah, teams assembled over time in the Championship where most everyone has a great motor, is aggressive, and has been put under a well-respected manager…They aren’t necessarily far behind us in many of the metrics that count: work-rate, aggressiveness, “coachability,” decision-making, and good football smarts. That they aren’t as individually skillful makes less difference in the short term.

The biggest difference is that these teams usually lack the necessary quality in the final third. Brentford fashioned three decent chances, took two, and didn’t give a lot up elsewhere once they got stuck in. We could’ve put them away early, but didn’t. That’s been a recurring theme.

What Has To Change?
Most supporters are on the same page by now regarding needs. Gerrard’s system isn’t that much different than Smith’s was, but there are differences. It’s the same players with the same strengths and limitations, though.

For now, Gerrard has relied on the same core as Smith, which sort of rubbishes the idea that Smith was playing favorites. Mings is better than Hause. There are no real alternatives at fullback. Sanson is finally healthy, and maybe he makes a difference. McGinn is McGinn. Ramsey, well, he’s getting moved around, but might not be a nailed-on starter if Bailey were fit, or we’d instead see a different midfield three. Luiz is not particularly combative, but is the closest we have to a 6 with Nakamba out. Nakamba will break things up, but he’s neither imposing nor a deep-lying playmaker. We may have players we can actually sell on for a profit (however modest) as necessary.

Going forward, you look at Watkins: big, strong, fast, can run all day, has a decent goal-return, and helps out all over the pitch. That’s what we need more of. Pretty simple. Doesn’t mean Nakamba, Luiz, Sanson, Ramsey or McGinn are bad players. But we’re simply not athletic or aggressive enough. That said, it could be the case that just one player who can chase people down, win the ball, break things up and safely hand it over and even progress a bit is enough to allow any of these others to shine. Players like Fabinho and Kante…Yeah, world class, but unearthing a player with those attributes would be huge.

Out wide and up front, well, we’ve missed some tricks. We do have pace, on paper anyway, and there are surely moments of magic in Traoré and Bailey. But neither can stay fit, and we don’t have any players that fit the mold of a Toney, Olise, Eze, Saint Maximin, Antonio. Hell, even Bowen. There’s no Maddison or Rice. No Soucek. I’m naming a number of West Ham players because that’s been good recruitment. And that’s why they are where they are.

Villa have opted for different kinds of players. And it may yet work. Bailey, Watkins, and Traoré could be frightening in space. But Gerrard is going to have to remake certain parts of the squad. As he said, more grit and aggression, better decisions. That seems to rule out a number of the current lot. And naturally everyone will wonder how last year’s Player of the Year, Matt Targett, will fare, while Cash seems a slightly better fit. We’re hearing Gerrard will be backed, but we all know how January works.

Why I’m Not Upset
I didn’t enjoy Sunday at all. But again, I wasn’t necessarily surprised. The team is reverting to norm. And I remind myself that this is year three, and the plan has probably been set back a touch by losing the lynchpin around which recruitment was originally being conducted. Not saying the team will be worse off in the long run, but that kind of difference maker is hard to replace given what was around him. The idea going into last summer would’ve been to add to Grealish.

There’s still time to get it right, and if Villa are mid-table right now then they’re mid-table. I don’t think the project is stalled. You don’t fire a very popular manager and take the high-profile gamble on Gerrard if you’re not pushing on. And we remember being told that Villa were underachieving when Smith was sacked. Given the context, I thought it was a bit harsh, and now Gerrard is facing his third defeat in a row. I’m sure there’ll be a response, and United are a bit of mess, so that third defeat isn’t at all guaranteed. But we’ll have a practice crack at them in the cup.

You can have all the expectations you like, though some are more reasonable than others. I still think Villa will get there, and we’re reading about the inevitable clear-out that would’ve occurred at some point under any manager when better players were brought in because that’s always been the plan: starter to backup to transfer. The levels have to be raised throughout, not just in the first XI. The upside is that if Purslow trusts Gerrard more than Smith, then we hope the manager has more veto power and gets what he’s looking for, rather than what Lange thinks looks good on paper.

Anyway, most of us agree on the limitations. Most of us see the same areas of promise. And if nothing else, we know Gerrard knows what a Premier League midfield needs, and he understands what a top-quality squad is all about from the inside.

I’m thinking he can get the recruitment right going forward, and has the pressure on him, including from himself, to be ruthless and smart.

Over to you.

Comments 166

  1. Thanks JC. It’s a good summary of where our team building has reached. Mid table. I think that’s about our position.

    We do not look comfortable on the ball. The thought process is too slow. First time passes are rare as rocking horse droppings. There is still a gap to close on the top teams. Watched ManUre v Wolves today. Sure, we won at Old Trafford too. But ours was a rear guard smash and grab. Wolves gave an excellent performance (which I’m yet to see from Villa post Jack) and deserved the win.

    SG will now have a much better idea of what we need especially in midfield. These remedies take time and money so we must be patient.

  2. Cheers, Plug.

    Yeah, a little patience, time and smart spending can do wonders. SG will be able to succeed, I think, push us forward at least.

    To your other points, you’re right. Always the extra touch, poor turn/decision, taking that extra second or two to think…and not always having someone giving them the easy option.

    When we get that and start pinging it around a bit, we’ll get more room to play. Until then, teams are going to say, “If you don’t give them time they’ll buckle.”

  3. Thanks JT, yeah recruitment was pushed and pulled by many needs and probably many perspectives but I also think the club was pushing the Villa name worldwide as part of its strategy that Jack was central to. Egyptian, African, Brazilian, Argentinian players? yes we need to move into those pools and markets but not as a basis for a prem team. We do seem to have tricky but not durable players and not many are genius level. Its now a potpourri of jack and post Jack. Hopefully the clubs at least make money on them might come off but only if they get sold here in the EPL , Europe’s broke.

    Westham have east European players and some you mentioned were there before moyes , Brentford have Scandinavian and lower league English etc as a basis, thankfully they had injury problems too.

  4. Bang on JC

    Villa have frustrated the support for a very long time
    Since the new owners came in hope and expectations have risen but we seem to have hit a ceiling so need to go to the net faze of the 5 year plan build.

    So far apart from young our buys are worth more than when they came in so Villa is still a great base to build and re build on
    JC you mentioned quality or ability of player as apposed to tactics and I fully agree tactics can get you so far but quality of player is going to take you closer to major honours and European football

  5. MK,

    I never really buy into the excitement that someone having a good tournament can produce. But. You do get to see a number of players you generally aren’t seeing every week, and it can be eye-opening. Especially when it comes to mentality, work-rate, etc.

    Good players everywhere, but teams that have figured out certain geographies to focus on have had some luck. I always look at the Eastern European sides and admire how gritty and hard-working they are, generally. Never over-awed, great engines, sound in their assignments. The last Denmark squad was like that, etc.

    Coufal and Soucek have been marvelous, and Soucek is the perfect example of unearthing a player that gives you a lot of what the top deep-lying players do but for less money.

  6. runtings,

    Yeah, it was a shite summer, tbh. All the disruptions, Euros, Grealish going, late incomings, injuries. Then international duty, more covid, and some questionable business. It really did keep us from pushing on like we thought we would.

    Where I get frustrated is seeing a player like Traoré when I look at other wide options playing against us. I’m sure he ticked a lot of boxes on paper, the price fit, timing, etc., but when you watch the PL and see who’s successful, who you hate playing against, he’s just not really the sort. We’ve talked about Villa being lightweight for a while.

    On his day, he does have some magic in him, and maybe injuries, etc., have held him back. Maybe we haven’t been able to play to his strengths. But if nothing else, he could work on his decision-making and graft.

    The other thing that’s frustrating is the number of injuries. We’ve got £40m+ wrapped up in Traoré and Bailey. Maybe it’s harsh on Bailey, just bad luck, and we’ll see when he finally returns, but they’re no good to us if they can’t hold up week-in week-out.

    Then they finally do get healthy and they’re straight off on international duty. The odds of Traoré coming back fit from AFCON just don’t seem good. And him suddenly being back just in time to jet off seems a bit suspect.

  7. for me now as a squad. id sack off the el ghazi, house, trez, sorry trez the fringe bench players and use the youth.

    the signings now i want are class.

    linked to digne. be very happy with that. ive always liked him. coutinho bring him in. him and buendia as 10s. omg lets get some names and class.

    i love youth as general but we are a young squad woulddnr mind older players as long as they are quality

  8. H&V,

    Agree…we need a few older heads in the mix. If we capitalized when we should, we’d get more chances to give the youth solid minutes and keep everyone fresh.

    Also agree Ghazi, Trez, Hause, etc. are players that can go. My guess is that they won’t just yet for depth, but SG & Co may indeed opt to take money if they can and elevate the youth.

    I’m still unclear on our FFP situation. Saw one graphic saying we only had £5m FFP space in January, which seemingly conflicts with what we’re hearing. If it’s true, then maybe NSWE will execute some more financial maneuverings.

  9. Until your total salary to players goes over 100-150 mil a year I think you can consider yourself to be a feeder club. Unfortunately Villa are in the 60-65 mil range. Mid table. Your existence is to provide the finished article to the “big 6” and to provide a home to older players to wind down their careers while providing “mentorship to young players” who, after “graduating” get bought. A nice cycle of young and old players through mid table clubs. The lower down a team goes the worse it gets. It used to be the lower leagues getting picked off but now the top 6 act as if they are in a league of their own and pick off who they choose. A club reaches a certain point and can’t refuse as they could lose the player for nothing or have a “Lukaku or Pogba” on their hands. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. It keeps the lesser teams in turmoil and unable to weather any real problem. You can see what the virus has done.
    Villa are a team that is projected to break into the top of the league but unless big money is spent top 10 is the ceiling. And spending big money is stifled by FFP. A system built around total income not a set limit. Again the big clubs have a vast pot to dig into due to worldwide recognition. That’s why Villa are interested in Las Vegas and Egypt. But this is going to take more than a few years so don’t expect big signings anytime soon.
    Villa have good players—very good players actually but they operate a millisecond behind the players in the top six. All the tactics in the world aren’t going to help if you can’t do them at lightening speed. There are teams that are punching above their weight and we have seen how long they can hold that form. Leicester, Leeds, and Everton for example. I’m guessing West Ham and Wolves will be on the downward spiral next. It’s like the corporate world and their glass ceiling.
    The players don’t let the fans down. Nor do they let the manager and assistants down. They were, at that particular time undone by a better player or one who managed to get an extra step. It’s not a level playing field and won’t be for a long time.
    I’m starting to think that the Super European League was a good idea. Give me competitive games not ones that resort to gumming up the gears and hoping to steal a goal for a win or most likely a tie or, still a loss.
    Declan Rice for 100 mil? Why not? West Ham needs to be shown who’s in the drivers seat. That ’s what the Grealish trade was all about. Put those uppity teams in their place.

  10. I think overall we ain’t done too badly with recruitment. zone out and Remember us middle table championship 4 or 5 years ago. I looked at Norwich, Leeds, toon, wolves in the champ and thought we were miles behind. We’ve spent and caught most of them up. You’ll never get every transfer right.

    Physicality, more class needed. I can’t wait until Bailey gets fit and a run.

  11. Christian Eriksen is available on what would be a free. Take a chance on his fitness? He claims to be fit. Give him a medical—a good one. What’s to lose?

  12. I agree Ian although Villa have purposely bought very young players relatively. Westham have an average age of 28 , Brighton the same, wolves 28 , Liverpool, city, chelsea all 27-28 . Leicester have gone young this season and are struggling, Villa are still average age 26 if young and Ings play after 2 1/2 seasons and are looking to introduce even younger players. Its not a fool proof plan but is quite common that a 28 average is at their best for 2-3 year window.

    Man utd are very young but Ronaldo has dropped them to a higher average. The outliers in the top 6 are Spurs at 26.5 and Arsenal at 24.9.

    Brentford are very young too which is credit to their system and what we have tried to emulate with more money I suspect but have old heads at the back. Rico henry is still only 23 though and started with Smith at Walsall.

    Soucek cost £5m , had 5 years in a good tough league with Slavia Prague and is now 26, that’s what we needed to be targeting that 26-27 gem level (easy to say) . Instead we have hoped the whole team would mature into that 27-28 average over the 5 years . What we have lacked is the real quality older heads to guide them, like a class full of kids with no teacher you will learn from the headmaster (manager) when he’s there, when he’s not (on the pitch) it gets a bit unruly . Maybe SG is a nod toward that although he is clearly frustrated. His Rangers team was full of old heads. Ashley plays in his team if fit because he has nous which rubs off.

    Villa have a long term plan which Jack punctured somewhat in a self harming way imo. The fans as always have a short term view generally.

  13. On Erikson it depends on why he had a problem, I have seen he had the problem weeks after getting jabbed but also there was a counter claim he hadn’t (no surprise) but there has been much more information since then as it was early in the Vaccine roll out. If its myocarditis then 6 months of no exercise is needed and maybe he is over it but?

    “The Danish Football Union said in a tweet on June 17 that Eriksen would receive an implantable cardioverter defibrillator — a heart starter. The device is necessary after a “cardiac attack due to rhythm disturbances,” according to the sports organization.”

    If that’s true I cannot see him back in the prem maybe I’m wrong.

  14. Erikson would need to sign a health waiver. I can’t see a healthcare company insuring him based on potential liability. If something went wrong there’s the backlash the EPL could face – why did u let him play knowing his condition?

    Hopefully a quality DM this week. It seems like SJM and Luiz are both better as 8’s.

  15. Just goes to show you can have money but you won’t be able to attract top class next level players without a high profile manager as well
    I actually believe Stephen can attract the likes of Courtinho and Gomez who we are both heavily linked with … Deano wouldn’t be able to get these players to join us

    We play good football atm but are like a dog with three blunt teeth these sorts of buys would give us the required bite to go out there and win a lot more games

    Key window will be interesting to see if the manager can bring in the next level players required to head closer to the clubs ambitions

  16. Countino.


    That’s why we got rid of Smith as well to get big name players

    I don’t even know where he would play though!

    Front 3 with Buendia?

  17. Coutinho will be a much better loan deal than Axel assuming he remains reasonably free of injury.

    Just what our midfield needs, drool, drool.

  18. Coutinho defo seems to have legs. Can’t hurt they played together. Apparently SG gave him a ring.

    Seeing it evolve into “loan with an option to buy over the summer.”

    Serious wages, but Barca need to move him to wiggle salary space for Torres.

  19. And I will say that I’ve seen one big move change a team’s fortunes by changing the way they’re perceived.

    Convincing one can definitely have a domino effect.

    Probably very expensive, but it’s not my money and he’s better than our current options. 29 isn’t the worst age, and sometimes you need a bridge player to move you forward. If he performs and does stay for three years, say, that dovetails with our ambitions.

  20. Can’t really say if I think it’s good for us to sign coutinho for the playing side,but it’s definitely some step up from Barston from Swansea only 2 seasons ago
    Purslow will feel much more comfortable dealing with Barcelona than some lower league side,is that good for us ,yes we need some gliter

  21. Omg I think it is a goer. Very respected sources saying now a loan to Buy! To buy!!! Wtf hahaha this would be insane. Biggest transfer in my lifetime no doubt.
    I didn’t realise he was only 29. Thought he was 31.

    I can’t bring myself to believe it right now though!

  22. James some of our best players have been ‘old’ Dublin, carbone, Laursen, Merson, nillis!

    I did say a week or so ago about coutinho after reading sg book. He loves him and said he needs a arm around the shoulder, needs to feel the love

  23. What a shallow bunch you all are lol 🙂

    Wow looks like the answer to no Jack Grealish is to buy another one. Don’t know what to make of this one other than he is class and was great in this league if not in Spain. SG has shown he is not afraid of using older players, a big swing away from the plan so far. Hickey is very young and I would assume that the other two LB’s claim in to expensive? Hickey still raw.

    As for attracting players Smith got Ings, Martinez, Watkins, Bailey, Beundia, who could of all gone elsewhere and JT as a coach. Jack Grealish though was keeping us in the medias eye and that was priceless. No doubt SG has his own pull and contacts he’s a legend in the modern game, be interesting to see where he takes us now that it appears we are looking at purely results vs long term development. Or its about providing the right examples?
    Maybe events worldwide and other players like Newcastle entering the ££££ game have spurred the owners into action.

  24. Mark

    Buendia and Watkins were championship players. Not exactly a great pull to attract them.

    If Smith wws still here we would be after Cantwell in January.

    Purslow wants to be negotiating with the big boys, not championship clubs.

    Buendia and Countinio coming in of the flanks behind Ings would be fantastic.

    We need a new left back and right back to provide quality width

    Most importantly this month we need a tall nasty guy protecting the back 4

  25. MK,

    I am curious about NSWE’s thinking and timing. Or maybe it’s just Purslow’s. Hard to tell, seems like.

    Coutinho, to me, would seem to be entirely SG driven. Without them being friends and having played together, I can’t see him coming to Villa, atm, no matter who’s the manager (unless there was a previous link/relationship).

    Been up and down on this one, but I can’t get away from the fact he’s got to be better than anyone else we’ve got, wants to prove himself, and although pricey, it is just a loan. (Though with an option to buy apparently…latest talk is Barca want it to be mandatory, Villa saying no.)

    Also ought to have an impact on the rest of the squad.

    Where does it leave us if he ‘flops’ or does okay but doesn’t stay? Got the Barkley situation again. I’m going to trust SG on the player, given the relationship, but like you say, what this says for the plan, timeline, expectations, etc. is all very interesting.

    Is this just happening because it’s a surprise opportunity and because NSWE withheld funds over the summer so they can afford to spend? Or does it signal a reassessment? Seems more like a surprise opportunity, but also seems to me like this has been quietly on the boil for a little while.

    Being told we’d be ‘excited’, Torres moving to Barca, Barca needing to free up cash to get him registered…

  26. H&V,

    Yeah, the talk keeps centering on a LB, maybe a CB, though I’ve seen it said SG wants a true 6.

    And seems like every Villan wants a true 6, as well, me included. Been wanting one for a while.

    Would be a pretty astonishing January window to bring in three players, one of them being Phil. But also looks like some teams are still under a lot of financial pressure, so not a normal January market, perhaps.

  27. Financial pressure. A chance for Villa to pick up some talent from the strapped teams. It really is ruthless preying on someone else’s problems. But hey it is what it is.

  28. Frem- so you want to see Phil play with two players that were attracted by Smith and it excites you? wonders will never cease, you’ll be drooling over Trez coming back fit next.

  29. JC- yeah its intriguing, Phil isn’t Jack who spent years hear even though he was way above our level, so we bring in someone way above our level that knows nothing of the squad, Beundia is having a hard enough time settling .

  30. John

    Dear god yeah this signing doesn’t even get talked about if we didn’t have sg. Not a bad first signing. Hopefully. I’m still waiting for a twist, pool going for him is my fear. My pool mate at work is fuming there not in for him….yet!

  31. Barca signed Brazilian coutinho for 140mill 3 year ago.

    Hahaha and he may well be coming to villa. It’s completely bonkers.

    How quickly footy can change eh. Seems like yesterday I was you tubing Jordan Bowery

  32. Daily Mail is reporting “Breaking News”. Coutinho signs for Villa on loan. Official website still silent at time of writing.

  33. fair fucks to purslow and the owners.

    big decision to sack deano. was not a no brainer. but they want success and they want to be big time.

    sg and coutinho through the door.

    the profile of our club has just gone bannanas

  34. It looks as if the Mail have slightly jumped the gun but it seems unlikely to fall through now. I had worried that Newcastle might hijack it but apparently he wasn’t keen on a relegation fight.
    So. . . . .will Gerrard be able to help him regain something of his old form. . . .you have to hope and believe so.

    Now it’ll be up to Gerrard to make all the pieces fit and If so, there has to be a chance that we might kick on to knocking on the door of the European places.

  35. R0bbO, Confirmation now on the official site. It’s a loan for the remainder of the season with an option to buy. The Daily Wail got this story right.

  36. An interesting situation to say the least.

    Obvs better than anyone at the club. Form and fitness will be questions, naturally, as well as what our longer game is here.

    SG should be able to get his confidence right, but not much time to make an impact on this season (and how much meaningful ground can we really make up anyway?) if we’re being careful with him.

    Very curious how this will play out at the end of the season. People saying the fee would be something like £40m.

    That said, undeniably exciting. Big move for SG and the club.

  37. A Depressing Familiarity transitioning into Walking in a Villa wonderland

    Interesting with so many youngsters recalled I wonder if any have caught the eye in training , maybe save ourselves some money on a wing back

    Hope the Gomez link come true

  38. Excellent piece of business by Purslow and Gerrard, signing Courtinho! A real statement from Villa at last.
    Interesting that not one person, fan or pundit has mentioned Ashley Young as having any part of the future, yet SG has not stopped singing his praises, and now he has two players with world class experience to use, and help him in the development of a new and exciting Villa. So sad that so many underestimate the value of experience, and yet in the past it was exactly that with the likes of Paul McGrath.
    I am sure that both of these players will also make a huge difference in helping to develop our youngsters.

    I am fascinated by the facts on Michael Edwards at Liverpool, and how he has been behind the amazing transfer business that they have done. Now if SG could persuade him to join us, that would be the coup of the decade!
    It now is looking like a different ball game for Villa, and we can look at bringing in the players that at one time would have turned their noses up at us. The future certainly looks bright, and I certainly will be savouring a very nice glass of red wine later!!

  39. reading non stop about phil and how he plays. will almost deffo be an attacking lb in as like joe he cuts in and wonders about.

    strong links to lb, gk now and cb but not much in cdm!! we will be like man utd else all fur coat and no knickers

  40. Bissouma would be perfect and a left back.
    He’s a phenomenal DM. Absolutely fantastic defensive player

    As everyone on the net is saying, the board were waiting for this transfer but knew Smith needed to go first

    Yep looking forward to Watching Hayden to.

  41. Comparisons between Barks and Phil will be interesting. What one brought to the table and one still to bring to the table. Barks was great to start with and then quickly turned into a disappointment. I somehow think Phil will surpass anything that Barks managed. We’ll see.

    Is Phil going to be our Bernardo Silva?

  42. frem “As everyone on the net is saying, the board were waiting for this transfer but knew Smith needed to go first”

    What the jeffing hell, why would Smith have to go 1st to get Bissouma? surely if they’d got him there would have been a better chance of Smith still being here? or take it a step further why didn’t they sack him last season because they knew they couldn’t sign Bissouma until he left?? lol I have heard some twoddle but that is priceless.

  43. Welcome Phil, I don’t know how SG sold this to you and I don’t care it will be nice to see you in the Shirt even if its 6 months. Clearly he didn’t send you a video of the Brentford game.

    If we sign 3-4 in this window I think the owners truly want top 8 minimum. I cannot see us signing Phil for the chance to pay £40m in the summer, he really could go anywhere. And I can’t see us signing players that will not make a big difference to the team either, to many in the waiting list to leave.

  44. Frem

    Not comfy with the Deano slander.

    Very good post I saw, would the Phil signing be poss with Deano no, but it wouldn’t be possible without him either.
    Got us back to promotion and prem stability.

    There’s no need to compare. I like to just see at as Aston villa as a whole. New owners making great decisions so far looking to improve us and being ambitious.

  45. Plug

    It’s a bit insulting to Phil to be comparing him and Barkley! Haha

    Let’s just hope Phil can be fit and stay fit. Think under sg and feeling the love from villa will get him motivated easy.

  46. Great 1st half from Hayden. Jesus not able to beat him. Pity they’ve told him not to attack. His defending is super impressive, didn’t realize that part of his game was so good

  47. Villa MD,
    Young Kessler-Hayden was outstanding and Swindon’s MOTM, if not the MOTM, also made Kyle Walker look like a mug when he took the ball off him, but hey not good enough for Villa….
    Harry McKirdy had a great game too, scoring the consolation goal. Three ex-Villa academy players, part of the saving of Swindon from relegation. Apparently, McKirdy scored four goals on New Year’s Day against Northampton Town!
    Fair play Swindon made an entertaining game of it.

  48. On SG and Phil: It’s not Gerrard’s managerial reputation or name that got that deal done. Because, seriously, leading Rangers to glory is not much different than winning the Champs. Great record, but. And obviously a great player, but the managerial graveyard is littered with former great players.

    The telling factor was that they’d played together, are friends, and it was clear Phil needed to move and be in a welcoming environment. Gerrard, someone who knows him as a person, too, was instrumental in that aspect.

    Phil wants to play for Brazil this winter, and will be the main man at Villa, guaranteed to start. It works for both of them…well, it works if it works for Villa.

  49. PP,

    Yeah, Kesler-Hayden was probably the best player on the pitch. In the 2nd half it looked like he was told he could push up. That run and jinks before Rodri blatantly pulled him down – wow, pace and skill.

    He’s pure quality. Happy for him

  50. I’ll be excited, but shocked if we land Bissouma. Brighton manager said no players are leaving so it won’t look good if their best player leaves to a club at the same current level

  51. Mark

    I meant the board were waiting for a big signing like Countinio, but knew Smith had to leave first.

    But to be honest lx smkth would never be able to attract Bissouma either.

    Gerrard though certainly could pull him away from the other clubs interested

  52. Reading what others have said about Kesler-Hayden I wish I’d watched the game now.
    It’s a tricky balancing act for the owners and manager isn’t it? We want to see the promising academy players coming through and playing for Aston Villa but we can’t help getting excited about new signings too. The two don’t ‘have’ to be mutually exclusive, but the more outside recruits we bring in, odds are, the harder it will be for the youth to break through. It seems increasingly likely that it will be only the very very best youth players that make it at Villa Park.

  53. I’ve seen on twitter a few people commenting that Coutinho wouldn’t have been tempted to Villa Park by Dean Smith and they may be right. It can never be proven of course but friendships can be powerful incentives and odds are that Gerrard and Philippe’s friendship was a factor in this move.
    That same friendship, and Gerrard’s personal experience of how Coutinho plays and what motivates him should give him the best chance of hitting the ground running and recovering some of his old form.
    I’m bemused by the few people on twitter who are using this as a stick to beat Dean Smith though. I find it really hard to understand why any true Villa fan would want to criticise a fellow fan, particularly one who had done so much for the club (and obviously far far more than they could ever dream of doing themselves).
    I saw a nice little resume of some of the key successes that Dean Smith had at Villa Park and how he transformed the club’s fortunes. Whilst it’s increasingly looking as if our owners made a good call at a good time to change the manager surely any true Villa fan will feel empathy with Dean Smith and be wishing all the best for him.
    I thought the headline of the article got it spot on when it said “Don’t cry because it’s over Villans, smile because it happened.”
    That’s certainly how I feel about Dean Smith’s tenure now. Hopefully, in years to come we will all be able to look back and appreciate that Dean Smith’s contribution and success at the club laid the groundwork for us to press on and return to the pinnacle of the game.

  54. Well said Robbo, that’s the reality not the Dean Smith held us back rubbish being spouted. The most successful manager since mon and that’s just modern times setting several records, one never achieved in the prem league before when we survived with 7 to go. Without that SG would not be here and neither would Phil.

  55. Frem- Still makes no sense, what were the board deciding? did they look at the list of gettable managers for Villa( quite a slim one) and see who they had as friends that they wanted to sign? There is a difference between a managers achievements and reputation attracting players and the odd chance like this one of Phil Knowing SG and both needing a spark.

    If pepe went to Swindon would the squad of City all sign for 3k a week to play for him? would Phil have contemplated a loan there? of course they would not unless there time was over and it was for fun.

    I am not saying SG cannot attract players by his name its just that so far its been the likes of Defoe, Phil is the height of his pulling power so far but it would not have happened at Rangers nor without their friendship same as JT coming to Villa was because he knew Dean Smith.

    SG in every presser keeps telling us we are a long way off where we want to be, it may turn out that by the time he leaves he has achieved little more than Dean, I hope not but this is a journey for the club.

    I do know that getting promotion, surviving, going to a cup final and thrashing some of the top teams will always be in my memory whereas beating some of the teams we should beat and and a few tight losses to the teams we normally lose to won’t, the arrival of Phil? yeah might remember that, lets see how it turns out.

  56. Phil has tested positive so we won’t see him on Monday, maybe the Leeds game but he won’t be able to train with the team much you’ve got to laugh 🙂

  57. Mark, as both you and JC have pointed out, Gerrard hasn’t proven anything yet.
    Dean Smith has, and his legacy is in now in place. He brought pride back to the club and Gerrard has now been granted the opportunity to build on Dean Smith’s success.
    I’m sure that, like me, you’ll be fervently hoping that Steven Gerrard is hugely successful. He won’t be able to advance us as many places up the leagues as Dean Smith did but we still have a long way to go and he will hopefully get us closer to the ultimate target.
    I hadn’t heard that Coutinho had contracted covid. . . . . has he had his medical?

  58. Not sure that Courtinho was seen as being available immediately, but his signing does show the intention from SG and the Villa board, providing an incentive for players to come and play for Villa.
    Now talk of another clever loan deal for Aaron Ramsey from Juventus, with an option to buy, possibly if we fail to land Bissouma.
    I don’t like the putting down of Dean Smith either. He achieved wonders for the club, and should be appreciated. It is the same the way we dish our players. I wonder if we would have made the Premiership, or stayed without EL Ghazi, and again, his time may be up, but let us at least appreciate the goals he scored for us, especially in the play off final!
    MK, don’t underestimate Swindon Town. They have turned things round, and are going places!!
    I wont mention Thomas Frank either….MK. LOL!!

  59. Robbo- Phil doesn’t have to have Covid, the spike protean sheds for 15 months after the disease or vaccine and if you test above 28 cycles with PCR there are a large amount of false positives. I suspect its that rather than has Covid.

  60. PP- 🙂 Yes Franks is doing well, for me I always thought Brentford would do well once they set their eyes on promotion and got their stadium sorted. Again Deans legacy/ involvement is all over Brentford from the players they now have or have sold and the manager they have, club building is Deans domain. They must be one of the most profitable clubs out there and they are the mini template for what Villa are now doing.

    Brighton and Southampton are also good examples but Brentford’s owner really knows his stuff. Whether they can go further with their way of doing things who knows, Villa certainly seem to have hit a ceiling using some of their methods but then we are not Brentford and the pressures and time scale preparing are completely different. I wonder whether Frank will be there in another year?

  61. Konsa and Ollie came to Villa because of Dean. Dean took over when we were a middle of the road championship team going nowhere. What he had achieved at Villa is remarkable. The fact that he’s hard core Villa and a nice man makes it better.

    Sometimes fans may not use words correctly, but I don’t think Frem and other fans dislike DS. I think the point is we want to go to the next level – compete in Europe – and most feel SG can get us there.

    The jury is still out on SG, but so far so good. Like DS, he appears to be highly intelligent. He also seems like a nice man. Imagine if we had the Chelsea manager? That would be really depressing having that tosser anywhere near Villa Park

  62. Our image has taken a massive leap forward, stevie g wasn’t my choice but if he can help us attract big stars so be it
    Only downside I would have preferred a defensive midfielder first it would give that bit of confidence to all

  63. Smith done a great job for us,but he took us as far as he could,will always be grateful for his role in restoring us to premiership,and who will ever forget the Liverpool hammering or beating utd at old Trafford

  64. I’m surprised to find myself agreeing with you on this one JG. I’d normally favour league over cup but this season I’d quite fancy a cup run too. The only downside to that argument is that cup runs can normally provide an opportunity to give youth a chance so I would probably still compromise very slightly by giving a start to Chukwuemeka and having a couple of others ready to bring on as subs.

  65. JG- Yep SG has filled the media gap Jack left and Phil will expand on that hopefully. As for DS taking us as far as he could? he took us as far as he was allowed this season and never got his 1st team fully fit and onto the pitch for more than a nano second. Even SG has not achieved that so far.

    So I can’t agree he would not have taken us further it’s impossible to know. SG is always saying it will take time and he’s right and that was the truth the minute Jack went walkies.

    Moyes has taken West Ham up a notch and not a single ” top 5 player in the world” loan has he attracted, He does have a very solid team built by himself and two previous managers though and a mile away from where Villa sit in experience. I hope SG is the man to do it for us but could equally be the next manager or the next.

  66. Mk
    Moves has a proven record at this level
    Smith was at his first attempt and possibly his only
    For all smiths years at lower levels we never picked up any real bargains,souek is everything that we needed

  67. JG- I’d look at how West Ham run their recruitment, ours has been somewhat more urgent than theirs and not entirely in Smiths hands. Imagine taking a punt on a player when you need 12? well that’s what we did.

    I would say that most that have come here under Smith are now worth more. Souchek is probably what most the teams in this league have wanted, there are and always will be bargains that turn up and reflect well on the manager. Smith took players from the lower leagues at Brentford and they cost us how much later? imagine if he had suggested buying someone for £1m during our time in the prem and thrown them in the 1st. You have to ask why all the top clubs are rarely if ever finding soucheks haven’t you before claiming its a fault in Smiths ability?

    Even Spud bought McGinn for £2.5 m

  68. Just heard that Djokovic went to Australia because the state of Victoria have Covid rules that allow anyone who’s had Covid in the last six months with a negative test to fly in. It looks like the Australian Government have chosen to make an example of him as a celeb and basically arrested him and put him in a grubby old hotel and taken his wallet and phone away. What is the world coming to.

  69. VillaMD- with the greatest will in the world I don’t think DS could stop him virtually becoming a cripple in a footballing sense, he was becoming better and had played for Brazil before he got crocked so I cannot see the sense in that comment.

  70. I genuinely do wonder what the level of player SG will turn up? But does he have to find us some Soucheks or if some high profile players turn up for big money will that be a success? 😉

  71. I think I’m the only one who doesn’t really rate souchek! Just a big lump and threat from corners.

    I liked wes and wish him well.

    Poor sod was just finding his feet until that thug crippled him

  72. H&V people were still talking about the Mon era’s effects when we were in the Champs so no chance 🙂

    I see there is a rumour Moyes wants Hause, he’s ex Wet Spam academy.

  73. Mark

    Haha yeah mon always crops up! How’s your fantasy league going? All these games being called off has Been a nightmare.

    Can’t afford to loose another CB this window! I heard they wanted el ghazi too.

  74. Sg will want next level quality.

    I absolutely love the way he’s trying to set us up with narrow 10s and for the play to be one twos short sharp passes. I mean now adding Phil next to buendia is mouth watering.
    What we will see in time is fullbacks that are pretty much wingers though. It’s vital to his system.

    You watch him go mental at one of cashes crosses.

    Digna would be a great start. Bad year at toffees but is class. That left peg

  75. Heroes- Doing ok but yeah it’s a challenge, in fact I have climbed the league in the last two months, just looked to see if Phils on there yet, he’s not. Also noticed that most of the Kids on our bench are worth more than Ramsey who’s actually in the side lol.

  76. MK – Wesley was big and slow before and after his injury, and he couldn’t head the ball.

    H&V – yeah, Coutinho and Buendia with Ollie or Ings up top is exciting. Buendia likes the one touch fast flicks. I think Coutinho will be in same wavelength.

    We badly need a #6 though. Don’t really care about LB

  77. How much is Bissouma worth with 18 months left on his contract? Apparently Brighton value him at £40m. That’s a bargain for a 25 year old.

    Digne at £30m? No thanks. I prefer to pay £50m for Bissouma to get him in

  78. Villa md

    Yeah reports this morning say Brighton want 50m for bissouma.
    Hmmm a lot when we could wait until summer and he’ll be worth 30

    Won’t sign a deal.

    I want full backs as sg system demands there quality in final 3rd. I love targett but when it comes down to it not sure he has that quality attacking. Got to think Robertson and Trent as the standard we need playing this system

  79. H and V

    We won’t stand a chance in the summer of getting him when his price drops

    We have to get him now. He’s a phenomenal player.

    Go pay the 45 million.

    He’s a world class DM

  80. I remember the last world class DM we had in Idrissa Gueye you would not have thought it at the time as he got plenty of stick. I’m not sure that SG will lay £45m out for one just yet but I suppose it might happen.

  81. I have to applaud SG and his coaches for coming to the conclusion that what this team really needs was to replace Jack with someone else that we will have to run the ball through to get the best from him. Phil’s a goal scoring, chance creating ball carrier of that there is no doubt and likely a step above jack in nous and he will demand the ball. The irony I suppose is SG is probably the only person who would of got Phil C here, and Phil C is one of a very small bunch or maybe the only player that could emulate Jacks influence.

    If he stays 6 months then the best we can hope is he drags us into the top 8 and gets us some publicity and memories but he then leaves us with another giant hole to fill. Unless the plan is to keep him and build around him? at least we will get to see why we bought Beundia to complement Jack hopefully or it just might cancel him out.

    We have seen Jack virtually cancelled out at city as he is no longer the fulcrum, Coutinho suffered in a similar vane at Barca because Messi needs the ball as much as he did and there was only ever going to be one winner there.

    I can see why SG would want Phil most clubs would but it does smack of a return to a one man attack. that said he should complement Ollie, Ings and Bailey and maybe the added attention will give Beundia more room. So hopefully SG is buying time as the side develops and he gets others in, and hopefully Phil likes it and stays.

    You have to think though that if we will struggle to get Bissouma in an open market as frem says then what hope of keeping Phil C?

  82. Plenty of hope keeping Phil…he has joined us after all. The thing with Phil is he has won stuff, his ambition and experience now maybe just to want to enjoy his footy. Bissouma however maybe gagging for champ league footy.

    We have bid for Dundee wonder kid smith. 17. CB

  83. I’d love bissouma but it’s mad money and not sure he’d come to us. Think it’s a non starter and tbh could get a class cdm for much less.

    Looks like we are going for digna 🙂 many after him though

  84. Yes we are in the driving seat with Phil but a lot will depend on how he takes to Villa and the players. Presumably SG see’s him as a team player although he did agitate for his move to Barca and allegedly feigned a back injury so he didn’t have to play close to the move. He’s Brazilian so one of those emotional types 🙂 I guess Steve’s promised him the earth and a cuddle each day.

  85. Yeah that’s it any South African has that desire to play for barca or Madrid. That scratch has been itched, he’s got more then enough trophies and he’s a shy lad who needs the love. Sg and the Holte end will sort him out.

  86. Davis got the arsenal defence rattled. Making a great start. Love the bloke he’s quick and strong centre back hate playing against hmm

    Traore with a lovely assist. Real quality player on his day

    Apparently we want another forward

    Trezeguet and Gahzi will go finally thank God

  87. I think we need the #6 when playing 2 #10’s. Nakamba would have been good enough, Luiz is definitely not. Luiz is a #8.

    MK – great post a couple back when u mentions Messi at Barca. Didn’t think of that, but agree with you

  88. On Kesler, I think he’ll start ahead of Cash. That’s why he’s recalled. He’s that good that I’d play him at LB ahead of Targett.

  89. H&V, the Digne talk really is heating up isn’t it? When Sky say that egotiations are ‘advanced’ it starts to sound very real. I liked home so much I had him in my fantasy team all last season so he must be good 🙂

  90. Frem

    Can you pinch me man! Coutinho and digna hahaha

    Sg waving his elite balls around. It’s utterly insane this is happening. We are operating on a different level.

    Our owners man. Up the fucking villa

  91. Watched Traore being very . . . .Traore earlier.

    Super cross for their goal, but really half-hearted
    in backing up his team mates for much of the game and totally inept in giving away a penalty.
    You ‘feel’ that there’s a good player in there but he’s only ever able to flick the ‘classy player’ switch a limited number of times during a game. It must go with the surname. Adama Traore is another one who flatters to deceive, although he will at least put a full shift in.

  92. I was chatting to my football mad Nigerian friend earlier and was amused that he’s nervous of the Salah/Trezeguet partnership against them in their opening AFCON fixture.
    I must admit I’d be less surprised at Trez making a good impression during the tournament than Traore.

  93. Good goal from Forest. . . .I’d have expected to see Davis make that too if he’d still been on the pitch but at least it was an ex Villa player that got it in his place

  94. I can’t help being reminded of Kipling’s ‘If’ poem. Not the “triumph and disaster” line, but the one that says “If you can dream – but not make dreams your master”.
    It’s hard not to dream a little at the moment, and maybe we should, but it’s worth keeping in mind that:
    It can take time for new players to bed in.
    Coutinho has had 8 spells of injury in the past 4 seasons with the most recent, laying him up for 7 months.
    There’s no telling how an influx of new players may affect other individuals or the squad dynamic.
    In other words. . . Let’s not assume that we’re going to suddenly win every game and let’s not get too depressed and critical when we don’t.
    We’re still moving in the right direction so let’s give it time

  95. Coutinho and Digne (if we get him) do feel like diversions from our more recent recruitment strategy.
    Presumably (hopefully) it’s an indication that Gerrard is having more of a say in recruitment.
    Maybe the judgement was, that we needed more experience in the team
    Maybe also though, the owners have been a little spooked by what’s happened at Newcastle?
    Perhaps they felt that plans needed to be accelerated?
    Although I like Newcastle as a club and wouldn’t wish them ill. . . It would be handy if they had to spend a season in the Championship!

  96. With digne looking like a cert,hope stevie g has room in budget for a monster midfield general,it’s a great time to be a villa fan especially after last 2 false dawn s,its time.e for new silverware memories of Wembley 96 are fading

  97. Spot on JG.
    Talksport and Gabby shite about Suarez!
    Garner says that Villa only recalled Kessler-Hayden to see how he fits with the first team squad, and not to find him another loan deal. If he does not make the fit, then he will probably return to Swindon for the rest of the season.
    Digne has agreed terms with Villa apparently, so could be close to a done deal.
    Davis excellent yesterday for Forest, and hopefully will have a good season with them. I can see him and Grabban working well. Another great goal from him.
    Robinson scored a great goal for the Baggies yesterday! These ex-Villa youngsters still doing well.

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