Lots of frustration and anger after Sunday’s stinker, and fingers are pointing everywhere, which will happen. Most are singling out the players, and some have gone a bit further, logically, saying the performance at St. Jame’s Park would’ve gotten Smith sacked.
I was more hopeful of a glorious charge, didn’t want to be back here so quickly. Perhaps a shake-up will help in the short term. Whatever, if it gets us results, I’m all for it. If Gerrard is indeed ruthless, there will be lots of changes come summer. But one hopes that solves the problems, rather than this being a failure of system and evidence of obstinacy.
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.
Villa have gotten in one player this window we’d never have expected, another quality signing in Digne, perhaps another big surprise, a CB prospect in Kerr Smith, a reasonable #2 in Robin Olsen, and it’s anything but a normal January.
Everyone is rightly asking what all this means. There’s SG being backed versus Dean (ie, the Grealish money + what we’d have considered our expected summer spending outside that windfall); NSWE’s short- and long-term ambitions; and Villa’s previous recruitment/development strategy. Sure I’m leaving something out.
Villa’s January business says NSWE, Steven Gerrard, or both, are looking for immediate impact, it seems. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if they make a noticeable impact. You can’t have an entire team of projects, after all. Perhaps Phil and Lucas offer enough experience and nous to help the team’s mindset, never mind the set-up.
Whether this illustrates a demand for European places this year, can’t say. Whether this is meant to pre-empt sides like Newcastle? Can’t say. Whether this is part of the promises made to Gerrard to convince him to come, can’t say. Could very well be all of the above.
On the face of it, both moves make sense. Coutinho’s creativity, skill, and style go a long way toward filling the hole left by Grealish and balancing out the side (which could obviously be quite the understatement). Likewise, Digne would seem to fit the left back profile that Gerrard’s system requires. Both are experienced internationals, and both would bring a different mentality to the side and the dressing room.
With Coutinho, while he’s unarguably world class, there will be concerns over form and fitness and what happens after his loan ends. Yes, there’s an option to buy, and the purported price tag entirely reasonable. Could well turn out to be a serious bargain and coup all at the same time. But that’s only if it works.