When the news first filtered into MOMS HQ that Yannick Bolasie was returning to Everton from his loan at Aston Villa, the only thought that crossed MOMS mind was of the wasted time of the previous night, discussing the player’s best role for Villa for the next My Old Man Said podcast episode.
His return to Everton wasn’t exactly a big deal, considering his contribution in a Villa shirt.
The conclusion on the show had been that the winger had tended to work best as an impact substitution. Coming off the bench to torment tiring defences had been his most productive work in a Villa shirt. While Bolasie seemed to be able to focus for those shorter periods, his interest and intensity tended to wane, when he started games.
A Championship team paying a player serious wages though, just to be an impact sub was poor business. In other words, considering Villa’s need to keep wary eye on FFP, they could ill-afford such luxury players.
Recently, Villa fans on social media had turned on the player (it doesn’t take much nowadays when Villa are mid-table), not helped by clickbait articles that collect ‘hate tweets’ to bash a player. Some fans had tweeted the player, telling him what they thought of him and ‘advising’ him to go back to Everton.
You couldn’t blame him, if he thought, “Well good luck in mid-table, I’m off.”
Since, there’s been differing reports of whether it was the club’s decision or the player’s wish. MOMS is settling for it being a mutual decision.
The following day, misfit goalkeeper Andre Moreira was sent back to Atletico Madrid, as Villa continued trimming off the squad’s fat.
Twitter football scholars had initially based their opinion on the keeper, on the headlines of a clean sheet and penalty save in his debut in Villa’s 1-0 League Cup win at Yeovil. Those who actually watched the game though, had raised eyebrows at his overall performance – from his decision-making to his handling.
At times, he looked like an outfield player filling in between the sticks, after the goalkeeper has been sent off.
What did the Villa goalkeeping scouts actually see in him? Had they even bothered to watch him in action beforehand?
Moreira was ultimately a loan to back-up Orjan Nyland (although a pointless one, considering Jed Steer was already on the payroll), but it was the Bolasie loan that stands as more of a concern in terms of the club’s outlook and planning in terms of its transfer policy.
What were Villa thinking when it came to getting Bolasie on loan in the first place?
You could tell at the start of Bolasie’s loan period at Villa, all was not well, in terms of player’s fitness, as his involvement was held back.
The winger had previously been out for a year after damaging his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee in a game for Everton against Manchester United on December 4, 2016.
He returned on Boxing Day 2017, but fast-forward to the summer before this season and Bolasie failed to cement himself in the plans of the Everton manager, Marco Silva, for this season.
What was the purpose of the loan deal to Villa?
For Everton, it made perfect sense. Get another team to help with his rehabilitation, meanwhile paying at least a percentage of his expensive wages (it’s been reported that Villa have paid all £70k-a-week, but that seems unlikely considering the financial situation Villa were in during the summer). It would in the very least, lessen the speed of Bolasie’s drastic devaluation from the £22m+ Everton were reported to have paid Crystal Palace for the player.
The player, if he knuckled down and focused on his football at Villa, would have a chance to impress his parent club and get his career back on track.
So, what were the benefits for Villa?
Well, that’s the questionable thing. Bolasie had played games for Everton since his major injury, so Villa supporters all assumed we were getting a player that was match fit and ready to go. He just needed games to get up to speed again.
He evidently wasn’t firing on all cylinders though.
It took a while for Bolasie to be involved, but when he was finally used, Bolasie did provide end product in terms of assists and a couple of goals, from the bench. So, there was promise there, but then things seemed to stagnate and he never became the player Villa needed.
“He showed periods of the class that he’s got, just not as consistent as he would have liked, hence him ‘recalling’ himself,” said Dean Smith, on Bolasie going back to Merseyside.
Yet, in the same breath Smith added, “He felt that it was time to go back and try and push his way into the Premier League.”
So, too inconsistent for the Championship, so lets try and play in the Premier League instead?
That doesn’t make too much sense.
Also, Everton boss, Silva has stated that Bolasie has next to no chance of playing for Everton in the remainder of the season.
“We have four wingers in our squad and we are happy with them,” said Silva, in reference to Bolasie’s return.
“When he took the decision to come back we didn’t expect it, even though he has that option in his contract.”
Bolasie’s Villa Contribution
Bolasie’s 12 appearances off the bench made Bolasie the most used substitute for Villa (he also made nine starts), while he played the 12th most minutes (954 mins) of any Villa squad member.
He managed the same amount of goals (two) and assists (four) as Jack Grealish did in around twice the amount of playing time (Grealish played 1829 mins).
While that looks like it’s Grealish that needs to pull his socks up (and his shin pads), when it comes to end product (and he probably does to be fair), Grealish was very much the glue and drive of the team. Bolasie’s pass completion at 72.3% was over 15% below Grealish’s and the lowest of any Villa starter this season, bar Tammy Abraham.
Ultimately, Bolasie failed to deliver. The key stat of him starting less than of half Villa’s games is a very poor return for his top-end weekly wage.
The issue remains that it was Aston Villa’s choice in the first place to bring him in.
With Middlesbrough publicly interested too at the time, it seemed from the outside, at least, that the club had snagged a player who’s last transfer fee was £22m to give them a competitive edge in the division.
The reality though was Villa had got player that the management and recruitment team had perhaps bought, based on his past achievements, rather than looking at the reality of the present – the player’s current fitness, ability and motivation.
If we are to believe Villa were paying his £70,000-a-week wages, then you have to question what exactly did Villa learn from the previous season’s short-termism?
John Terry and Robert Snodgrass were reported to be on a similiar wages. Regardless of the individual impact of the player, if Villa fail to gain promotion, then the player leaves and the team is back to square one. There’s no player development or potential for improvement through the previous season’s experience.
Also, you may have noticed several of Villa’s high profile loans have been prone to long-term injury. While Bolasie had been drip fed into the team, Axel Tuanzebe has been injury prone during his loan periods with Villa, while John Terry also spent a period on the sidelines.
Loans to plug gaps is one thing, but using them as your main assets in the hope of promotion, will potentially see a team treading water for years to come, if the promotion mission fails.
Likewise, in the case of Bolasie and Moreira, these loans saw Villa’s own players Andre Green and Jed Steer shipped out on loan to lower league clubs.
While hindsight is 20/20, both players would have featured for Villa this season, if they had stayed, so they would have developed as proper team members in terms of Villa’s future.
There is no exact science in squad-building, but from Martin O’Neill onwards, Villa’s seems to have been made-up season-to-season and reeking of short-termism.
No Villa manager or CEO seemings to have learnt from the mistakes of his predecessor and any long-term planning seem to exist as pure fantasy, ala ‘the Villa Engine’.
We await eagerly to see how Villa’s latest regime tackle the art of team-building.
Transfer Deadline Competition
It’s time to get educated about the in’s and out’s of transfer deals and we have just the thing to help you learn the inside track of the ever evolving business of football transfers.
MOMS is giving away five copies of the recently released Done Deal by football lawyer and writer Daniel Geey, which gives you all the context and nuance of how modern football now works.
Simply email the answer to the following question to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject ‘Done Deal’.
Who is Aston Villa’s all-time record signing?
MOMS Patrons will be automatically entered into the competition.