While Aston Villa fans have been desperately hoping a forward player would be the club’s first signing, sometimes if an opportunity arises to improve another area of the team that may not appear to be a priority, you take it. In the NFL draft, for example, sometimes a team may pick a player that isn’t on their shortlist, simply because he happens to be the best player left in the draft, that wasn’t expected to be available. It’s a case of when opportunity knocks.
In English football, within a transfer window, order matters not, and with many teams initially slapping inflated prices on their players, Villa have had to play a waiting game until negotiations can take part using more reasonable figures.
Villa’s purchase of Nottingham Forest’s Player of the Year last season, Matty Cash, was done the other way round, with Forest initially rejecting several Villa offers, before settling on a £14m fee (potentially rising to £16m with add-ons).
After Villa’s major overhaul last summer and signs of the team galvanising in the later stages of the restart period, it’s about making smart signings that can improve the first XI and give Smith more options. In Cash, Villa have a player that will give them hopefully a more attacking presence in the full-back role, but also give them an option of playing him in front of Frederick Guilbert to have a right side of real pace to get at teams.
Cash has been a talent that has perked the interest of scouting departments across Europe. When he was younger, there was previous reported interest from the normally eagle-eyed likes of Chelsea and Leipzig, and more recently his agent was having discussions with AC Milan at the start of this year.
While current Forest boss Sabri Lamouchi is credited for Matty Cash’s switch to right-back, it was also a position that former Forest boss Mark Wharbarton had considered for the player, three years previous. So, it’s not such a sudden change.
That said, Cash has played less than half of his Forest appearances in the position, but having that attacking tendency in his footballing DNA will certainly be a major factor in Villa’s acquisition of him.
The fullback positions was an area that Dean Smith was keen to upgrade last season, but the improvement hasn’t been to the degree he perhaps would have wished for. The defence really struggled for most of the season and that really didn’t allow the full-backs to make much impression going forward.
While Villa will be wary of the ‘one good season’ Championship player scenario that has bitten them before, Forest’s Player of the Year last season, has a positive and enthusiast persona that should immediately add further competitive spirit to the team.
You only have to look at top English teams like Liverpool, Manchester City and Spurs (a few seasons ago, with Walker and Rose), how good and pacy attacking full-backs can play a big part in a club’s progress and success.
Cash is still a work-in-progress, but as well as impressing with the defensive part of his game, since his switch to fullback, he gets forward into meaningful attacking positions and has the odd goal in his locker, while his delivery – both right and left foot – is greatly improving by all accounts.
In terms of realistic players in the position that would come to Villa, that had the player profile of being young and full of potential, Cash is hard to beat with Smith describing him as “one of England’s brightest young prospects.”
Use code MOMS10 for 10% off below
Guilbert Au Revoir?
Much has been made of Le Equipe’s 2+2=5 journalism, when they touted that Frederic Guilbert maybe forced out of Villa, but you have to remember Villa need a squad and have lacked real options on the bench. As mentioned, the potential of playing Cash in front of Guilbert is certainly an option for Smith, to have optimum direct speed down the right side.
Guilbert is still developing and showed enough last season to suggest he’ll be a good squad member with the ability to give Cash a run for his money for the right-back berth. In fact, don’t be surprised if Guilbert starts the season as Villa’s right-back.
Ahmed Elmohamady is approaching the last season of his contract, so seems the more likely fall guy – either he’ll play out the remainder of his contract and take a free agent move to play out his final years, or he’ll seek first team football else where.
It’s been forgotten that Villa moved on their other right-back, James Bree, before completing the signing of Cash. Bree’s move to Luton Town would have at least allowed Villa to factor in Bree’s transfer fee and wages in bringing the Forest man in.
So you could say Villa have upgraded Bree to Cash.
Bree though does provide a cautionary tale when it comes to new signing hype, as when Villa bought him, supporters were told by the media and the club, the ex-Barnsley man was considered one of the best young fullbacks in the Championship and the country.
That said, there is plenty of Villa historical precedent for Villa supporters to get excited over Matty Cash.
Former 1970’s Villa right-back favourite John Gidman was a converted winger. Better still, another converted right-winger, Kenny Swain, like Cash, started his career at Wycombe and also played for Forest after winning the League and European Cup for Villa.
A new Kenny Swain would be a decent transfer indeed.