Here’s my opinion on it all, which may be considered dull and lacking in ambition by some, or sensible and reasonable by others of an Aston Villa persuasion.
To provide background and context, I was of the belief at the start of the season that we were going to be a bottom six club (based on a number of factors, including the player turnover) and it was whether we were in the top or bottom half of that group. Fortunately, we just stayed above the line.
With the effect of coronavirus on the game as a whole, along with the shortened pre-season, I would not be keen on seeing wholesale changes to the squad. Players will have less time to become embedded and aware of the system Dean Smith wants to impart, whilst they may also be moving into the area (if abroad will this mean spending two weeks in quarantine?). In addition, as much as it was a gamble I wasn’t entirely a fan of, those players we had last season do now have a season of Premier League nous and experience which will hopefully be of benefit in the long-term. Also, we cannot keep rebuilding a squad year after year!
Vital Villa’s So what next? Who stays? Who goes? Who comes in? Forum Thread
To me, we need to build slow and steady, and whether the impatience of modern football will permit that, time will tell. I would consider finishing in the 10th-14th bracket this upcoming season as positive. As such, I am looking at where I would target recruits based on this positioning.
Right now our squad consists of:
GK: Heaton, Kalinic, Nyland, Steer
DF: Bree, Elmohamady, Engels, Guilbert, Hause, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Taylor
MD: El Ghazi, Grealish, Hourihane, Jota, Lansbury, Luiz, McGinn, Nakamba, Trezeguet
ST: Davis, Hogan, Samatta, Vassilev, Wesley
I believe to improve the squad and ensure we don’t get caught out by the turnaround that we should look at four (potentially five) signings when working off Smith’s favoured 4-3-3 formation:
1. Striker: I don’t think there’s necessarily as much grief needed to be given to our strikers than what is currently being spouted, particularly when none of them all season have had any worthwhile competition. if you find a player who can bag you the 10-15 bracket, you’re in with a shout. Wesley might achieve that, but it’s asking a lot of someone coming back from a long-term injury. I’d keep Samatta too as his start was lively, but he may have needed six months to get up to speed (as many foreign imports do). Alas, I am not a Davis fan and never have been. He needn’t have to be prolific, but he has to score sometimes and he just doesn’t, even when presented with great opportunities. I would cash in on him and Hogan and have Wesley and Samatta as my two alternatives to a new man.
2. Wingers: this is actually two signings in one department. Do I see the likes of El Ghazi and Trezeguet as good enough back-up options off the bench? Yes. Do I like the idea of them as first-choice options for another season? No. I would like us to find two players that are both an upgrade on what we have already to play on either flank. This is also based on the thought process that Jack is probably more likely to go than stay. Although, even if he does stay (fingers crossed), I’d still invest in two and let Jota move on to find regular game time elsewhere.
3. Midfielder: This would be an upgrade on Hourihane, who I like but don’t see as making the impact sufficiently across a 38 game season (but he is ideal against the likes of Newcastle, Palace, etc). Someone that is dynamic and offers some creativity is the mould I’d maybe consider. A new addition would also help cover the loss of the option of Jack slotting in there when need be, should he depart. I would try to move Lansbury on, as I just don’t see what he offers (but I guess most clubs see that too!).
4. Back 5: Honestly, I don’t see too much needing to be done here. Am I happy with Guilbert and Targett as full-backs for a bottom mid-table team? Yes. Likewise with Elmo and Taylor as understudies. There is no point replacing anyone unless you are improving the starting XI, that’s how it should be, we cannot be wasting funds on back-up full-backs! Bree could be let go if he wants. I’m not a Hause fan, but as an understudy for Mings, he’ll do. I like Konsa and I was a big fan of Engels at the start of the season so would keep them both on. If there was a good opportunity available, of course, I hope the club take it, but it’s down on the list for me. Same with the ‘keepers. Heaton, Steer and Nyland are good enough as a trio (although it’s all dependent on Heaton’s recovery). Kalinic needs to leave for his own career prospects, particularly internationally.
Would This Be Your Approach To The Summer?
Yes, 4-5 Would Get Us To The Next Step
No, We'd Need A Few More Key Players Than Just That
It should be noted, this whole plan is based on the Premier League keeping the 25 man squad and maybe being sensible (unlikely I accept) in not invoking the five substitution rule next year. I would probably only try to shift Kalinic and Hogan in that scenario.
My squad would therefore be :
GK: Heaton, Steer, Nyland
DF: Elmohamady, Engels, Guilbert, Hause, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Taylor
MD: El Ghazi, Grealish, Hourihane, Luiz, McGinn, Nakamba, Trezeguet +3
ST: Samatta, Wesley +1
Supplemented with youngsters like Ramsey and Vassilev when needed.
As mentioned it’s all about upgrading the first team, not replacing those that sit on the bench currently. Bring in quality, not quantity this summer; build on the experience of the season just gone and I think we may be able to grow and prosper over time and have this club back at the top where it belongs!