For many, January seemed to end on a down note with Villa failing to bring in a defensive midfielder, but it was a very productive window we should feel good about. There are questions beyond that elusive DM and a niggling doubt or two, though.

With all the movement, Villa have managed a net spend of only £2.5m in 2021-22. Obviously that will change over the summer, but if anyone’s wondering why we didn’t splash £50m for Bissouma on deadline day, it’s something to consider.

Villa got an upgrade at back-up keeper, which can be huge in tight races. Got a young center-back in, and another, more versatile player in Calum Chambers on a free. He may well end up providing a DM solution in the short term, as well as capable cover at DB. He’s also likely a hedge against future departures.

Add in Lucas Digne, and Villa are much more sorted at the back for Gerrard’s system.

Villa also replaced (temporarily, at least) Jack Grealish in Philippe Coutinho. Despite being a bit of a coup, it’s still a signing whose longer-term implications are unknown. But for the moment, we look to have the creative balance up front we’ve been lacking, especially as Buendia is hitting his stride and started oozing the quality Villa imagined. No idea how much Phil will be able to recover his confidence and form in 17 matches, but a pretty fair punt.

Stealing the Spotlight and Saddening bluenoses
Coutinho in a Villa shirt

Concerns, or Unfinished Business
Everyone’s wanted a true DM at Villa for a while, and we didn’t really add the star signing everyone wanted. I think Douglas Luiz would be the first to tell you he’s not a 6, nor does he want to be. And as much as he’s become a fan favorite, I don’t think Marvelous Nakamba is a top-six DM. 

So, the search will continue. With Chambers having played there for Fulham, it may be less of a concern than we think in the short term.

Other than that, though, Villa looked to have done about as well as they could without losing their heads. Bissouma’s price should only decrease the more his contract winds down. Given the competition, we may well not be in for him come summer anyway. But I think we’ll be able to find someone for less who’ll give us 80%–90% of the player while still leaving room for other moves.

Matt Targett is a minor concern, and many wondered why we’d strengthen Newcastle. While also slating him. He was never going to start again once Digne came in. So the move wasn’t about a lack of character or fight. It was simply facing reality, same as Digne wanting a move away from Rafa. Credit to Villa for letting the player go play. I doubt he’ll be the reason Newcastle stay up if that comes to pass. I wish him the very best. Pros and cons, he was out there fighting every week.

Big Picture
Sawiris’ and Edens’ ambition was always going to mean a large turnover in players. It’s the only possible way a cobbled-together squad following promotion would evolve into one capable of challenging for Europe. Which players on Villa’s roster would walk into City’s, Chelsea’s or Liverpool’s squads? United may seem to want John McGinn, and maybe he’s what they need, but when people talk about selling Luiz, I’d be more likely to jump at £50m for Super John. Love him, but he’s not really that level of player, to me.

He is as close to the heart and soul of the club as anyone right now, however. Mings and Martinez would be the others. But many are begging for Tyrone to be replaced. I don’t agree right now, but this is the way things are going to be. El Ghazi, Trezeguet, Targett, Steer…There are certainly more to follow.

We still have to see what Bailey and Traoré have to offer under the new regime. We still have to see what Coutinho offers, for that matter.

My guess is that if he rediscovers anywhere near his previous form, he’ll be moving on. As far as I know, Villa have the first option to buy with a set fee, though there was also something about Spurs getting consideration. And maybe he stays one more year, regardless if things looks promising and he’s enjoying himself. But he’ll want to finish at the top, I’m sure, if he gets his confidence and mojo back.

This means there’s a very good chance Villa will have a gaping hole to fill there once again. And it probably explains at least some of the decision not to pay a market-high price for Bissouma beyond FFP. We can only assume the other players named were either not convincing, or simply didn’t want to come. 

In short, as others have mentioned, there will be a bit of a revolving door for a while. It’s only if and when we get up into the European places that we’ll see big-name players stick, and even then, we should expect any opportunity for a profit and upgrade to be taken. Gerrard will have to keep a happy dressing room amongst what was, by all accounts, a tight-knit group. Not saying he can’t, but a series of aggressive moves can see you with a bunch of strangers united only by the manager who brought them in.

Niggling Doubts
My biggest concern is how much of Villa’s business is being driven by Gerrard. More specifically, his ambition. You’d like to say that his success equals Villa’s success. It’s only logical. 

But unless he’s here long enough to truly mold the squad he’s building, and even get it built, we could well end up like all the other also-rans who keep failing to crack the top four. It’s a bigger gap than most are willing to admit, and that ambition is what’s led a number of clubs to chop and change all while spending large amounts of money to essentially stand still. 

Me, I’m hoping that Gerrard’s ambition, drive and ego will want to see him get Villa over the line. But we’re all realists about the Liverpool job, and the fact he could well jump ship before then if it all starts to wobble at Villa. 

He’s using his honeymoon period well and everyone’s onside. There’s only one way to keep everyone onside, though. Smith was judged not good enough, and it seemed the project wasn’t moving fast enough. No judgment: It’s just an example of how quickly things can change. Purslow may be very invested in Gerrard, but all managers leave, eventually. Just a question of when.

So, wherever Villa end up, it’s a big second half. Everyone will expect us to climb strongly. Getting a European spot is a big, big ask, though. Possible, but not likely. If it happens, all good. If it doesn’t, I expect at least one more summer and season to try and get us there without a reset. Which could mean a round of big changes at more than one level.

The shine on Gerrard will depend mightily on how this plays out. Villa have done smart business, so it’s not as though the future has been mortgaged. But as elated as everyone is at the moment seeing Coutinho in a Villa shirt, the hard parts are yet to come.

Over to you.

Comments 71

  1. And I don’t mean to be downer, I’ve just been unable to shake this slight bit of unease, especially when I see so many triumphant declarations about how big we are getting Coutinho.

  2. JC
    Ditto. The Liverpool connection is a realistic mid term concern. At least I don’t think we need to worry about ManU or Everton getting interested.

    Don’t think Ron Saunders would have been allowed to get the job done in this era. Loved the way he got the job done with relatively small money spent on reatively unknown players and castoffs.

    Liked the way David Moyes did the Everton job on not much money. Look at what he is doing at West Ham (with some groundwork laid by BFS!). Bet we would take that at the moment.

    Liked the way Chris Wilder built up Sheff Utd over 3 or 4 years. Think he was only stopped by his club’s negligible finances.

    I think I’m a bit suspicious of whizzbang high profile managers. I do think SG has done OK, spoken well and shown the club and fans respect but the wizened old gremlin on my shoulder wonders when he will think he is bigger than us. Even worse, how long before the new owners do a Randy Lerner.

    Glad I saw that unbelievable record beating rise from 4th in Division 3 to European Cup Winners built by only two old school stubborn downbeat no nonsense managers. Glass half full.

  3. jbd,

    A great turnaround to have seen. Couldn’t really ask for more.

    I’m not necessarily worried about Compass doing a Lerner if they keep the books balanced. The investment in MLS is encouraging. I won’t say I haven’t thought/worried about it once or twice, though. They’re spending and investing as though it is a long-term investment. Someone would have to be very wealthy to buy them out now and make them whole.


    If they do chuck money at it, and they have, and they don’t get results, there will at least be a reset.

    To me, appointing SG and backing him like this…Purslow’s head is on the block if it doesn’t at least get them very close to where they want Villa to be. SG’s head is there, too. (Don’t think either NS or WE is about empty promises.)

    And by close, there needs to be a team sitting 5-8 that’s ready made for another manager to come in and get them over the hump.

    Coming in and targeting CL football is a very bold declaration. Perhaps naive. But neither is stupid.

  4. Thanks JC a whole write up just for me? Now what’s the question? 🙂

    I’ll tell what question is swilling around my two brain cells though. Villa are touting the Villa coaching way around the world to any that will take it up, mostly in the hope that it will enable us to see decent players early. MLS may be a nod to this and a huge money spinner eventually too. We brought Bailey in then announced we were helping his old club in the Caribbean for instance.

    Now the Villa way has suddenly become the SG plus his mates way, evolution? Or take what’s useful maybe and use it in the background too? I must admit Villa’s youth style always looked better than the 1st’s but that may be down to skill level in the leagues.

    As an aside to all this Villa had to stay in vogue and be relevant to progress off the pitch and Jack pulled that rug. Can’t sell a club to the world if they ask who?? now in the modern world Jack was a rising star on all fronts and the ladies loved him too. SG? well we will see how much pull he really has beyond his network of Liverpool friends, a pool that is reducing by the year. If it doesn’t happen for him at Villa quickly he will be trying to stay relevant himself. All managers have a few good players up their sleeve for a while.

  5. I don’t think Compass will do a Lerner at all. They purchased a basket case very cheaply and proceeded to invest big money to build the club and its value. Their return on investment at present is big. That was not the case with Lerner whose wealth came from the sale of a credit card business, where he was used to collecting 20% interest on money loaned and knew sweet FA about footy. Just the opposite is the case with Compass.

    More of a concern for me is not SG, nor players who may not stay or join. That’s part of running a football club and Compass know exactly how to do that. My concern is that Compass may decide to cash in their investment and sell it for a massive gain. If the sale was to someone like the Glazers for large sums raised via debt, we will be truly in trouble. The owner of Burnley bought them just that way and now they need to sell to service the debt repayments. Unsurprisingly, they are now bottom and favourites for the drop.

  6. Coutinnoooooo what a goal. Brazils number 10 plays for villa folks.

    give them 33 million now.

    For one a international break may work in villas favour.

    Buendia got on for Argentina and Marinez ANOTHER clean sheet for Argentina.

    what a time to be alive

  7. haha its classic villa fans at times….we are allowed to be ambitious and try and improve like how successful clubs become well successful!

    trust the process.

    Look at what NSWE said theyd do when we were in the champ. zoom out. look at what purslow said wed try and do when we got promotion…..were on the march. enjoy us trying to improve and become relevant once again.

    up the villa

  8. i completely understand any doubts though. SG is 41 and done 3 seasons in the scottish league and has replaced a fans fav in smith.

    But im one of a few who wanted him as soon as smith left. Hes a class act and has done madness in his short time here.

    7th in the form league since he joined. A clear idea how he wants to play. Pretty much fixing our mid striaght away bar the new cdm with mcguinn and luiz as proper 8s and nakambas role simplified and we as a team and nakamba looked so good.

    And attracting cou and digne which i still cant belive.

  9. plug

    if you want to know what someones going to do look at what theyve done.

    learner who hadnt done anything apart from inherit daddys money and destroy the clev browns.

    edens who has done the impossible with the bucks. its a insult to compare nswe and learner.

    And above all look at aston villa since nswe took over. again zoom out. its a ridiculous improvement in a short time….and thats what they want and demand. Progress.

    another window has gone by and more progress made. upwards only

  10. I’m going to buy you two pom poms and a ra ra skirt each 🙂

    Lerner had a bad divorce taking half his wealth, do Compass know how to run a football club? one of them has experience in Basketball in a very different system but they do seem switched on.

    But, Football doesn’t care how rich you are, take a look at Spurs debt , Everton? Arsenal are not what they were but the last club to crash the party big time was City. FFP has pretty much stopped that, so all those with big incomes on a world wide scale already have huge advantages. Switched on or not it can easily end in tears.

    Wolves are doing a reasonable job as are West Ham so far.

    As For missing Smith? I miss the fact he was going nowhere as long as we did ok and improved, this season a real one off event in Jack leaving, a real wheels fell off moment . I miss Jack more than anything he was our golden goose.

  11. mark

    yeah man money is half of it but you have to recruit well or its pointless. like weve seen with villa ourselves last 10 years before relegation and also the dr days of ross mccormack and lansbury eek!

    From what i hear smith was done…..some bad stories out there and no shock our form was in freefall before this season. lets just say the players got very comfy by the sounds of it and no wonder the running distances dropped. Always the first thing to go! Someone said they didnt spend all that money on a brand new elite training ground for it not to be used properly! But he certainly was a great chapter in our story and came along at a perfect time. I’m convinced ill never see a bigger/important/emotional game than the derby play off final. Just have to look at derby now…could be us very easily. a proper sliding doors moment

  12. Plug,

    I think with NSWE, we have to hope (given Edens involvement in the Bucks and now MLS) that they simply are committed to and enjoy sports ownership.

    If they were just money men, I’d be more concerned.

    But of course, if progress stalls…anyone could lose interest. But then you have to consider people’s competitive nature, ambition, etc.

  13. JC, I’m going to enjoy the ride whilst it’s here and hope there is plenty still to come.

    Nas and Wes will be given the freedom of Birmingham if they conquer Europe! Statues erected outside VP!! Hey Micky you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Micky!!! Pom pom, ra ra!!!

    But back to reality. We are on an upward curve. There have been some magnificent European nights at VP and I don’t think their return is a pipe dream. It will just take time.

  14. Plug,

    Think we can definitely get European nights again.

    Just have to wedge past the pesky CL also-rans in 5-10, but I think we can do that. Jump to 4th is the hard part, but walk before you run.

  15. What I feel very comfortable with in the new signings, and what’s been said:

    • Raising the average age a bit
    • Instilling a winning mentality

    I’m sure Phil can help on both counts, Digne, too. His goal for Brazil last night is maybe crucial for Villa. That’s two in three appearances overall, he has to be feeling it again a little bit, turn in fortunes, etc.

    I’d normally decry internationals at this juncture, but he needed the minutes, Martinez will be feeling hot, and Buendia getting his first appearance for Argentina on the heels of his uptick in form…These are all good things.

  16. H&V I’m not convinced on the comfy rumour, the club and players know the ambitions of the owners, to start coasting would be suicidal.

    When Smith had a decent pre-season with his squad we looked very fit and very decent, when we didn’t we did not. The biggest thing we had last season which appears to have disappeared into limbo in peoples minds was injuries and covid. If Smiths days were numbered how come he made it past the summer?

    I think if we had a good pre-season with Beundia, Ings and bailey in place earlier and less Jack saga then the season start would have been at least better. Whether they would of still sacked him is the question? I think there was more to this especially with the backroom staff shuffle.

  17. Mark

    They would never sack deano at the same time selling jack after a 11th place finish.

    The rolling in at midday so they can stay up later was just the tip of the iceberg apparently.

    one chap whos proper in the know said if you knew what i knew you wouldnt be surprised smith left! An inkling that terry kept certain standards.

    But like he said smith done so much and is one of us so would never come out fully.

  18. H&V still find it a bit out there mate why would Terry have stayed so long he was supposed to be learning from Smith? and why didn’t we hear about similar at Brentford etc? part of the reason given was the second half of last season was poor which due to circumstances it was, so why not use that excuse? at season end we still had Jack.

  19. Yeah, I think it’s good we’ve got friendlies set up. SG needs the coaching time with the squad. Mings and McGinn off working on fitness. Shame Phil and the Emis aren’t there, but obviously getting good match time and confidence in qualifiers.

  20. Who would you play vs Leeds next week. Back 5 pick themselves. So for me

    Douglas, Sanson
    SJM, Ramsey
    Watkins, Carney

    Buendia and Coutinho as impact subs

  21. Yep Heroes, he did not look as sharp as his team mates. Watching the penalty shoot out last night, something that seemed obvious to me did not register with the Cameroon coaching staff. Gabaski had a groin problem all game. It was his left leg.

    In the penalty shoot out, he’s not going to be able to use that leg to spring from and dive to his right. His good right leg would send him left each time and that is what happened for all 4 penalties he faced. That was also the side that Cameroon put all 4 penalties they took. Mindless. Had they gone the other side Trez might have been looking at 3rd/4th play off.

  22. Gerrard said he wanted to work with two players. I think he has a fairly balanced squad after the window shut. The holding midfield position i think could go that Iroegbunam if Douglas gets injured; maybe even Chambers.
    The squad is ok, but i think the narrow midfield that Gerrard system demands will freeze out certain players; most notably Traore and Trezeguet and to some extent Ings.
    We have to back the team but the second leg of the Premier League promises to be interesting.

  23. VillaMD. The first eleven picks itself from now on wards, barring injuries. Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne, Luiz, Buendia, Coutinho, Ramsey, MCGin and Watkins.

  24. I guess Rangnick is now even more shocked at the strength of our 2nd tier teams. Well done Boro’, Manure cheated us but got their justice tonight.

  25. Loving the media frenzy about ManUre being “cheated” on the opposition goal. What goes round came round. If the marking is non existent, the ball ends up in the back of the net. Delighted to see them out.

  26. Jack Villa,

    Yeah, hard to argue with that team. I’m hoping Sanson and Carney get lots of matches.

    Great to see Archer flying at Preston.

    Plug – some pay back for ManUre. I’ve watched the Ronaldo peno miss 20+ times. Gets better every time I watch it.

    Bruce taking over at Brom. The lad has no shame

  27. VillaMD, before I start, I should say. . . . .I don’t want Bruce back. The board also did well to swap him for Smith. . . . . however. . . . I do think that we owe him quite a large debt of gratitude.

    He’s a manager who is not going to get a gig at a top club or a club on the way up. He’s a manager you call on to steady a sinking ship. That’s exactly what Villa did and whatever anyone says, he made an excellent job of steadying the Villa ship when we looked to be at serious risk of going down.

  28. Jdb656 and R0bb0,

    Bruce has managed 12 clubs in his 24 years in management. Not sure if any manager in world history has jumped so much. Plus going to Blue noses, Villa and now West Brom. To me that shows he only cares about money.

  29. We all work for money. WTF IS WRONG WITH THAT. Like I said, moronic fantasy football snobbery. That’s really pissed me off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Give your head a wobble. What planet do you live on?

  30. Agree with Jdb656 .
    Not a Bruce fan but what is he supposed to do ? He’s a geordie working in the midlands , why wouldn’t he offer his professional service to anyone who wants them? Does a chippy or Sparx stay with the one client all their career. ?

  31. ‘Davis is a very , very useful striker’ !!

    Did he score any of the 4 goals today ? Effective player who tries hard and is honest but ‘useful striker’ is stretching it at the moment even for you .

  32. Prox,
    Have to disagree with you over Davis, as he has been great playing for Forest and terrorised the defences for seventy minutes in each game he has played, has an assist and a goal as well.
    The commentators and pundits have all praised his contributions, and confirmed his hold up ability, defensive quality and he is one to watch.
    We have a huge potential in the players we have out on loan.
    I also loved Spence, Matty Cash’s replacement at Forest, definitely one I would be keeping an eye on.

  33. Bruce
    would deadly ever hired him ,not a chance,biggest conman ever to manage, leaves every club he manages in a mess,we were lucky our new owners seen the light so fast ,he is like a door to door salesman offering you the world when in fact its fools gold

  34. JG. It simply isn’t true that Steve Bruce “leaves every club he manages in a mess.”

    He took Birmingham into the premiership and in the following 3 seasons achieved 13th (higher than Villa), 10th and 12th.. . . . . this is Birmingham City he did this with remember! They were then relegated but he took them back up so his time with them ended with them placed higher than when he took them on.
    He took Wigan to 11th in the premiership and Hull to their highest premiership total ever.

    He took on Villa when we really ‘were’ in a mess and steadied the ship. Dean Smith took over and yes, he improved our results, but if we’d been in a mess then he wouldn’t have been able to do that.

    I’m not saying Bruce is the greatest manager ever. . . we know he’s not. . . but he is a sound manager who will do a job for you and in ‘most’ cases, achieve some decent results and leave your club in a better place than when he took it on

  35. I have mixed feelings on the discussions about Davis but the one thing that we ‘should’ all be able to agree on is that the jury is still out.

    We’ve seen glimpses of real skill and sometimes he really can dominate defences but it’s never been consistent. JG may well turn out to be right that he’ll end up as a decent Championship player but injuries have meant that he’s not yet had a chance to prove himself.

    One other thing that we will all agree with is that we’d love it if he did actually turn out to be a decent premiership striker. If I had to bet. . . .I’d bet on him ending up in the Championship but I certainly wouldn’t bet my house on it

  36. As for Traore, Proxopera gave a pretty good summary of what we’ve seen from him so far. Like Davis, he’s shown glimpses of a good player but never enough so far to warrant a place in our first 11

  37. H&V,
    For a moment, I thought you had read my mind, in that I am not going to refer to Trezeguet by any other name than “David”. AS you may be aware his real name is Mahmoud Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan, and he called himself “Trezeguet” after his favourite player David Trezeguet. So, as long as he remains a Villa player, he should be called “David”!
    On Davis, he has only played 3 games at Forest, and already has figures of 2 goals and two assists, with his first game being 68 outstanding minutes against Arsenal, being a nightmare against Ben White and Rob Holding, then another great performance against Millwall, making 8 successful dribbles, which is a record for any Championship player this season!
    He would be much better suited alongside Danny Ings, rather than Watkins, but we will see how his development continues….against Championship sides, as well as against two Premier League teams!!

  38. Regarding Davis and all the other Villa players out on loan, ( 16/17 if I remember) their main job is to improve their game. They can’t all expect to be in the first 11 so their existence is to provide Villa with income and perhaps a place on the team. I’ve come to realize that players, managers, et al can only have one thing in mind and that is to push their own boat out. If it’s with the club they love then great, if not there are at least a dozen leagues that will provide them with a healthy income. Targett is a perfect example. He liked his time at Villa but Newcastle is his employer now and he’s already pledged his allegiance to them. Villa are in his rear view mirror. Steve Bruce is the best example I can think of at the moment. They want to play and manage.
    The first team players are only first team until they are not. Targett again being a good example. Whether Villa buys players or promotes from within is a moot point as long as the team improves. It really is a revolving door for all.

  39. Opinions everyones are different,traore gets stick yet beundi is hailed a superstar,traore had 15 goals assists in his first season with us add to that settling back in England, beundi has only 5 into 2nd half of season

  40. Can’t wait to get back to Villa Park tonight. Feels like an absolute age.

    I expect an extremely fast and frantic start from us tonight.

    Leeds have a lot of injuries.

    I hope we get 6 points from tonight and Newcastle

    Unfortunately we play Newcastle after they get a huge win

  41. am i excited by this villa team and set up and think we could do madness. Yep

    Am i also worried about relegation still. yep!

    the madness of the prem league. the 3 points against everton were absoultly massive.

    4 points from the next 2 would be huge. id take 2 draws now tbh

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