Hey Big Spender
Only four teams in the Premier League have spent more money on players than Aston Villa this season. While some supporters will see the 13 new incoming players as evidence that Villa chairman Randy Lerner has finally released the purse strings, the reality is such transfer activity has largely been funded by the £32.5m sale of Christian Benteke.
The opinion that Lerner ‘didn’t have to reinvest the funds’ is ill-founded, as with both Benteke and Villa captain Fabian Delph (£8m) leaving, Villa lost arguably it’s two best players. Considering Villa only just survived in the Premier League with these two players, not replacing them or not allowing Tim Sherwood to restructure an ailing team would have more than likely spelled certain relegation this season.
If the Villa chairman wanted to sell the club, he HAD to spend this summer transfer window, or risk losing serious money if the club was relegated.
Aston Villa’s Transfer Window Spend
The 13 players Villa brought in was the second biggest haul of players by any Premier League club, second only to Watford’s overhaul. What will please Lerner as being astute business is Villa’s spend was more than other clubs in the top five that brought the most players in (see above table), denoting a better quality of player, yet the club’s net spend was minimal. At £8.9m, in fact, it was third lowest in the league.
We’re a long way away from knowing if it will be a successful overhaul of Villa’s first team squad, as most players will take at least 10 games to find their feet and of course, only the final league table will judge them.
At least, the unknown allows room for fresh optimism from supporters, which has been low in supply in recent seasons. But did Villa spend enough to ensure progression?
Scale of Ambition
Some supporters feel that Villa have tried to rebuild on the cheap due to the amount of the net spend and that there should have been fresh investment above that net line to execute a complete revamp of the squad. For example, upgrading the goalkeeper and striker department, would have really signalled the club’s aim to return to the top half of the league, rather than making tentative steps (haven’t we wasted enough time already with recent seasons?).
Spending another £10m – £20m for example would have helped this, yet Villa would still have had spent a net spend on the same level as the likes of Watford and West Ham.
Lerner’s Cagey Game
With Lerner still being a chairman who is looking to sell though, his spending outlook will naturally be restrained. It’s a shame, as this limbo selling period is holding the club back from properly competing again. In many ways Villa’s FA Cup run last season will act as a placebo to cover up the reality of the lack ambition of this season, which as Sherwood has hinted is to survive once again.
Last season the Villa boss was bullish in proclaiming that Villa would never experience another relegation battle, yet the reality of the summer net spend has perhaps already curtailed his confidence in the scope of the job.
Essentially rebuilding a team for £8.9m is a good achievement for all concerned at Villa, but as we’ve already suggested, to what level has it been rebuilt? Certainly a couple more additions in January would be needed to complete the first phase of Sherwood’s rebuild.
But can Villa be taking baby steps when the rest of the league tend to make giant leaps? Arsenal’s net spend was higher than Villa, yet with Petr Cech they essentially only brought one player in.
The reality is though unless Villa take big risks the Premier League is a competition that the club can’t compete at the top of the table any more. It’s not their fault, but rather the bodies that run the game (FA, UEFA, FIFA) that have willing allowed money to warp it and dictate it.
Some football journalists have rated Manchester City as having the ‘best’ transfer window of the Premier League club, but it seems they are judging as if they are playing Football Manager on their Playstations – i.e. who spent the most on glamourous players. The fees spent on both Raheem Sterling (£49m) and Kevin De Bryne (£54.5m) are both ridiculous amounts to be spending on players and in many ways they are simply financially bullying teams in taking their players. There should be a squad wage cap to at least try to make the game a sport again, rather than something that is purely linked to economics – the more you spend, the more you win.
Financial Fair Play rules have little impact on actually making the game competitive. They are a myth in that sense. Manchester City’s £101.3m net spend is over twice that of their free-spending rivals Manchester United. Essentially they’ve brought this season’s title, which perhaps would be there’s even if they had spent half the amount they did.
It has to be said Villa’s transfer window has been managed much better in a more cost-effective manner and seems heavily influenced by the ‘Money Ball’ approach, but in the end will it bring comparative rewards? For surely, it’s top half or bust for Sherwood?