Following Aston Villa’s promotion back to the Greed Premier League, great strides have been made in the reshaping of our first team squad.
Gone are the highly-paid has-beens and the journeymen who came to B6 for one last major payday, something obligingly given under previous regimes. Glenn Whelan, Mile Jedinak, Micah Richards all gone, symbols perhaps of a more decadent, ill-planned and desperate age.
Champion of gated communities Ross McCormack has been paid off, contract terminated by mutual consent, the euphemism designed to at least try and save some face, for both sides.
We’ve seen the expiration of the contracts of other, less polarising players – Tommy Elphick, Alan Hutton, Mark Bunn, Ritchie de Laet and ‘Uncle’ Albert Adomah have all been quietly ushered through the door marked ‘Do One’ with our thanks and perhaps a small degree of discomfort.
Grand plans are in place to bring in ‘Dean Smith players’ who will fit the ‘profile’, add value and doubtless attract a high resale value should the need arise. And so far, so good.
Anwar El Ghazi and Kortney Hause have seen their loan deals made permanent. Jota upgraded Small Heath for Bodymoor Heath at the expense of life-long Bluenose Gary Gardner. So much winning!
And under cover of darkness, Villa smuggled in Brazilian forward ‘Wesley’ Moræs from Belgium (subject to international blah blah) in much the same way Christian Benteke arrived, to the surprise of pretty much everyone. (Warning: some of the names in that link may induce meltdown).
While there are doubtless a number of new (and hopefully returning!) signings still to come, there still remain a number of players in the squad who must be considered peripheral at best and should perhaps be speaking to their agents and planning flights or setting the Range Rover satnav to new destinations.
Chief among the players to clear their lockers at Bodymoor is surely Birkir Bjarnason. The Iceman has failed to make a significant impact in his time at Villa, largely playing a role from the bench and generally make no impression on the Villa faithful and management alike.
I’ve always liked BB, but it’s clear he has fallen well down the pecking order. His main claim to fame in his time here is his goal in the 4-1 demolition of Wolves a couple of seasons ago, but apart from that? I’m struggling… although perhaps not as much as Birkir. As an international footballer, his wages will no doubt be handsome to boot – get rid.
There is also little love lost for Neil Taylor. To my mind (and many others), he took a very long time recover from the horror tackle with Seamus Coleman, but in fairness played a major part on our finish to last season and his form went through the roof.
Never mind his defensive qualities, question marks must still remain over his effectiveness going forward – his crossing is abysmal, despite his eagerness to overlap – so replacing the Welshman is a must. Again, as an international, his wages will be decent enough, so just cut him loose and spend the cash elsewhere.
While I’m no fan of Henri Lansbury, his time at Villa had been injury-plagued, to say the least, so I would have no great issue retaining his services as a squad player and see what develops.
He’s a regular in the matchday 18 when fit, so this suggests there’s something which appeals to Dean Smith and the coaches. This is not to say I think he should stay, but there is no immediate reason to get rid of a player who’s rated but is unlikely to cost a fortune in terms of salary.