Opinion: Aston Villa’s January transfer window assessed
Villa have made headlines with their signings this month but, with just under a week remaining until the window closes, is there and should there be more to come? BirminghamWorld’s Liam Moakes gives his thoughts.
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Manager Steven Gerrard has said repeatedly Villa will not buy for the sake of it and that quality over quantity is very much the order of the day.
There can be no doubt he has stuck to his word so far, but it is often in the final few crazy days of the transfer window that the more unexpected and risky deals happen, often at inflated prices and particularly in January.
The business done so far shows Gerrard is keen to sign players of proven calibre who will be an upgrade on what he already has at his disposal.
The swoop for French international left-back Lucas Digne was mooted for some time once news of the player’s alleged fallout with then Everton boss Rafael Benitez had become known.
Gerrard clearly identified the 28-year-old as an upgrade on Matt Targett despite the former Southampton man’s increasingly impressive performances and Digne’s arrival for £25m appears to be brilliant business in today’s market.
Digne has made an instant impression in his appearances against Manchester United and Everton and his arrival at Villa Park leaves Gerrard with a back four which has few weaknesses.
Matty Cash and Digne provide threats to the opposition from both full-back positions as well as being solid defensively. With Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa continuing their impressive partnership in the middle of defence, then realistically Villa’s defence looks as good as it can be unless an unexpected opportunity arises.
It is a similar situation in goal, as the arrival of Robin Olsen on loan from Roma provides experienced cover for regular number one Emi Martinez, so Gerrard is sure to be happy with his work there.
With all that said, though, it will be interesting to see whether Gerrard does make a firm bid for Liverpool centre-back Joe Gomez.
A move to B6 is likely to appeal to a player keen to get more first team football under his belt in a bid to further his England ambitions, but Gomez would unlikely switch from Anfield unless he felt likely to go straight into the starting line-up.
Competition for places is rarely a bad thing but, with two impressive centre-backs already in position, Gerrard may yet be wary of spending big money to lure Gomez, only to leave himself with an unhappy player on his hands – whichever one of the three it may prove to be.
What does the picture look like further forward?
The arrival – albeit on loan at this stage – of Philippe Coutinho has been the headline-grabbing deal of the window so far, but Villa could well decide to make further additions in midfield and attacking areas.
A move for versatile Juventus midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur is believed to be close and the defensive
qualities he would bring in the middle of the pitch would be important at this stage as Villa continue to do without Marvelous Namakma for another couple of months at least.
From a more offensive perspective, there is an argument for both sticking and twisting. A raid on Manchester United for largely out of favour Jesse Lingard has been rumoured and, if Villa can get such a quality player through the door relatively cheaply given he is out of contract in the summer, then many fans will feel they should be doing just that.
However, the club have wisely got themselves an option to make Coutinho’s move permanent in the summer and both Leon Bailey and Bertrand Traore will feel like new signings when they return to the fold imminently.
With record-signing Emi Buendia really starting to show his best form and youngster Jacob Ramsey proving a revelation as he continues to keep his place in the starting XI, Gerrard faces a dilemma as to whether to bring in Lingard and potentially stifle the progress of one of the league’s brightest talents.
Could too many cooks spoil the broth? On the balance of probabilities, I suspect Villa will get a deal over the line for Bentancur this month, but any moves for Gomez, Lingard and anyone else will be put on the back-burner for a little while longer.
One thing is for sure – Villa fans can look forward to the remainder of this and future transfer windows with renewed optimism.
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