It is fair to say that when it was announced earlier this week that Aston Villa would have just over £1 million to spend this summer there was a feeling of worry among many Villans. The reason Villa find themselves in this financial situation is through the Financial Fair Play regulations.
The EFL rules on FFP state that teams relegated from the Premier League are allowed to lose up to £83 million across the first 3 years in the Championship without being sanctioned. Villa’s accounts show a loss of £81.3million. On the face of it, we may look to be in trouble. Clearly it is going to take more investment than £1.7 million to transform Villa from 13th in the league to promotion candidates.
There is, however, a more positive way to look at the situation. In order to buy, Villa will have to sell.
This gives us the opportunity to finally shift some of the dead wood out the side. Another positive to come out of this is that it may force Villa into the loan market, where there are many gems to be found.
In terms of shifting the dead wood, this is something that should have happened a long time ago. There was a culture within the squad that was relegated from the Premier League in the 2015/16 season. It was a toxic culture of a group of mentally weak players who had stopped playing for the shirt.
In my opinion, there are still players guilty of this that are contracted to Aston Villa and there have been signs of them infecting players who signed for Villa in the last 12 months. At the beginning of the season, Villa still looked vulnerable when winning in the last 10 minutes of games, unable to close games out. A more persistent problem has been that, having won just one away game in our relegation season, Villa have continued to be weak on the road with just 4 away wins in the league campaign.
Now, I am not saying that simply selling off players from the relegation team will magically make us a better team but rather that bringing in new blood that hasn’t been tarnished by that painful season will bring a new feeling to Villa Park.
Micah Richards is a prime example of the type of player we should be looking to sell. A Birmingham lad who wore the armband at times last season, he should have been the one the team rallied around at a difficult time. Instead, however, he typified a Villa team that looked resigned to their relegation for vast parts of the season.
It may be very cliché but it is time for out with the old and in with the new.
Many of the relegation squad are currently out on loan at various European clubs. Some, such as Jordan Veretout and Aly Cissokho have found success at their new club and are understandably unlikely to want to come back to B6. If their new clubs are keen to sign him then we should cash in.
The Championship is a tough league and we can’t afford to have players in the squad who don’t want to be at the club. The more interesting issue is what to do with the three players that were signed in the summer yet loaned out in January. For me, Pierluigi Gollini fits into the above category. He doesn’t want to come back to Villa and so he should be let go.
The cases of Aaron Tshibola and Ross McCormack, however, aren’t quite as clear cut. Both showed promise in their early days in claret and blue yet didn’t really set the world alight. Despite buying an almost completely new midfield in January, Villa still don’t have a settled midfield. Therefore, it would be a waste to let Tshibola go as he is arguably our fourth best central midfielder ahead of Gary Gardner who has had a lot of game time this season.
In McCormack’s case, his personal problems have only recently come to light. If Villa can help McCormack get into the right mental state then they will have a potent threat on their hands. If Villa can sell the majority of those on loan then this should free up both money to spend on players and a substantial wage budget to persuade those high-quality players to Villa Park.
Just as important, if not arguably more important than players leaving, is bringing players into the club. With Villa’s financial issues, the most likely signings we will make will be loan deals. Steve Bruce has already dabbled in the loan market by bringing in Sam Johnstone on loan in January. Despite looking very shaky in the early part of his loan spell, his confidence grew steadily and he became an important player for us.
Bruce has spoken of how he is already in talks with Jose Mourinho regarding bringing Johnstone back to Villa on either another loan or a permanent deal. Loaning young players from top end Premier League clubs is a real win-win for clubs like Villa. Some of the best players in the Championship this season such as Aaron Mooy and Tammy Abraham have come from big clubs where they weren’t given a chance and have taken the league by storm.
Yes, it is a bit of a double-edged sword as if the player performs well it may be difficult for the club to retain their services permanently, but it is an ideal stop gap until Villa can free up more of a transfer budget to sign this calibre of player. I feel Steve Bruce should be looking at players that have been on loan this season in the Championship that have perhaps gone under the radar.
Going to the parent clubs of these players and giving them Villa Park as a platform for their players’ development is likely to turn heads.
Players such as Izzy Brown of Chelsea and Tom Lawrence of Leicester have both had good seasons on loan in the Championship. These players could be the difference between Villa finishing mid table or potentially getting back where we belong in the Premier League.
If this is the case, then the FFP restrictions will be loosened and Villa can then afford to either purchase the players they previously had on loan or other players of a similar quality. The loan system is one that other teams have used to their advantage while Villa have chosen to spend a lot of money on players who on the whole, haven’t performed as well as some of the young talented loanees at other clubs.
Perhaps FFP may be a blessing in disguise by forcing us into the loan market for young, hungry players.
It is very easy to sit and write about who we should sell or buy but one thing the transfer window isn’t, is simple. Between now and the 1st of September, Villa are going to be linked with buying and selling dozens of players. It will no doubt be frustrating at times, but I have full trust in the decision makers at our club.
They will not put Aston Villa at risk either in the accounts or on the pitch. Patience will be key.
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