Story So Far
After a meek 17 point haul last season, there was obviously going to be the difficult task of clearing out an Aston Villa squad containing many members who had let the club down and were quite frankly, not fit to wear the shirt again.
Two potentially tricky removals took care of themselves with Charles N’Zogbia and Kieran Richardson reaching the end of their contracts.
Then players with question marks over their head, that might have still done a job, were moved on with Ciaran Clark moving to Newcastle (£5.1m), Scott Sinclair moving to Celtic (£3.5m) and Carlos Sanchez shipped out on loan to Florentina on a season’s loan with a view to a permanent move (for a reported loan fee, in the region of £200,000).
Everyone last term was pretty much expendable, so there wasn’t much fuss from Villa fans when Idrissa Gueye also left for £7.1m.
The money brought in was instantly reinvested on Ross McCormack and James Chester. So far, Villa’s business has been astute, lowering the wage bill and exercising a relatively low new spend.
Now comes the interesting part of the transfer window though. As well as the question of who will be added to the ranks for the hoped promotion push, the big question is will any deadwood remain?
Under Paul Lambert, Villa wasted millions continuing to pay the wages of the so-called Bomb Squad, players that were told they weren’t playing for the club again and then forced to train with the youth team. These players failed to find other clubs and ended up playing again for the team further down the line. Alan Hutton even gained a new contract.
Judging from non-appearances in preseason and at the start of the new season of certain faces, the clock seems to be ticking on the formation of Bomb Squad Part II.
If certain players can’t clinch a new club before the end of August, they are destined to be the second wave of Villa Park outcasts.
New Bomb Squad Members?
Joleon Lescott is already in pole position to be announced as the captain of the new bomb squad, unless he manages to find a new club pronto. Lescott has already been told by the club to find a new club, with them even giving him a helping hand to find one by announcing he was surplus to requirements on the official Aston Villa Twitter account. Not normally their style.
The good news for the player is Rangers seem to be interested in him, which would probably work out as a good move for all concerned. Interestingly, ex-Villa defender Phillip Senderos is currently training with the Scottish side with view to getting a deal.
If the Rangers link doesn’t work out, his situation will probably rumble on to deadline day.
Vice captain of the Bomb Squad Part Deux will potentially be Gabby Agbonlahor. Despite his desperate Instagram pictures of him being on an exercise bike at 6am to try and elicit some sympathy from Villa supporters, Tony Xia’s social media activity on the matter carries more weight. The Villa owner is clearly not impressed. In short, Gabby’s only hope of playing football is season is on loan.
It was Randy Lerner who gave him a new contract, rather than any Villa manager deciding on it, so hopefully some club will pay at least some of his wages for his services.
Joe Bennett will be wondering what role he has to play at the club, after he was seemingly signed, sealed and delivered to Sheffield Wednesday. But despite a medical and personal terms being agreed, Tony Xia suddenly vetoed the move.
With Aly Cissokho showing signs of improvement in recent games, it’s unlikely Bennett has much of a future at Villa.
You have the feeling at one of the two of Bennett and Cissokho will have to move on by the end of August.
The arrival of James Chester has certainly put question marks over the heads of Micah Richards and Jores Okore.
You’d have thought Richards would be on his way out, but high wages may make him difficult to shift. We may rue the day Big Sam took the England job and Sunderland’s interest waned.
Also, Richards release clause has expired, although how that would effect his situation is negligible It’s hard to trust him in defence any more, even at right-back. As MOMS has been saying ever since the FIRST preseason he signed! In short, somebody needs to buy Richards a football compass.
If Villa don’t buy a right-back, then he may get another season at Villa, though.
If Villa are willing to put up £8m+ for James Chester that surely means they don’t seem to fancy Jores Okore anymore. Is it time to write him off? He was tipped to be the solution to Villa’s defensive woes, he offered both pace and power. Unfortunately, he also offered the liability of being very injury-prone and also the tendency to switch off in matches. Witness his FA Cup semi-final error and also his recent own goal against Luton.
Should we seek mitigating circumstances with him due to his recent injuries with Villa? You could also say he was a sub in the semi-final, so not up to the speed of the game and against Luton, he had to a) switch to the left-side of the defence and b) play alongside Micah ‘AWOL’ Richards.
The juries out, but at the moment, he doesn’t seem to be the man we had pinned our hopes on to solve our defensive issues.
Is also thought to be heading back to France with St Etienne mooted for his signature. The French midfielder has slipped off the radio somewhat, but it doesn’t look like he’ll play for Villa again.
Rumours that Burnley still want him have surfaced again, although it’s likely a rehash job by a certain Daily Mirror journalist. Burnley, after all, have just signed Steven Defour.
Westwood’s first team place will be perhaps taken by Mile Jedinak, but you’d expect Westwood to be a squad member. He showed plenty of fight against Huddersfield to suggest he’s up for the case.
It was still a surprise when Hutton was given a new contract at Villa after being a founding member of the first Bomb Squad. Hutton has lost out on the right-back berth to Bacuna in recent weeks and if Villa sign Ritchie De Laet, then he may be forced to reconsider his Villa future, if he hasn’t already done so.
There’s no point for him to hang around at Villa as a third-choice right-back, as that’s akin to rejoining the ‘Blood Squad’.
While he still appears in Villa training pictures, whether he appears on the Villa Park pitch again remains to be seen. Surely his agent is working hard to find him a move? With Ross McCormack, Jordan Ayew and Rudy Gestede ahead of him and with the prospect of a new striker on Villa’s radar, the Czech striker is way down the pecking order.
Bomb Squad Part Deux
The two main ‘bad influences’ Gabby Agbonlahor and Joleon Lescott are the only currently nailed-on members of Bomb Squad mark II, but they still have a couple of weeks to save themselves.
Let hope there are no bad influences left around Bodymoor Heath and Villa Park, to hinder the revamp of this Villa team, as the miss handling of the first Bomb Squad under Paul Lambert was symptomatic of the many errors of the Randy Lerner’s ownership and a recipe for disaster.
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