After centre-back Tommy Elphick rolled into town, the Aston Villa rebuilding process seemed to stall a little. Instead of fresh faces, Villa supporters have been greeted with the pictures of the smiling mugs of those who fatally let the club down last season. Never mind boarding a flight to Austria for a preseason training camp, those guys should have been in a taxi out of Villa Park.
The reality is though, it’s going to be tough to shift and replace almost an entire squad in one summer and Roberto Di Matteo hasn’t been Villa boss for long. Still, Villa supporters would have hoped for at least two or three more new faces in the squad before the preseason trip to Austria.
Hopefully, Di Matteo will consider this a preseason cull camp, as the new Villa boss decides who will be kept and who will shipped out.
(If you want the squad list of those who went to Austria, you better check the official site, because it still pains MOMS too much to write those names on this blog!)
Pierluigi Gollini Signs
In terms of new signings though, this week was very much a race between Italian goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini and Reading midfielder Aaron Thshibola to be Villa’s second summer signing.
The ex-Hellas Verona keeper won the race after being announced as a Villa player today (for a fee around the £4million mark), with Thshibola expected to be confirmed very soon.
At only 21, Gollini got a chance in a struggling Serie A team Hellas Verona last season, but couldn’t help them avoid the drop. Before the new signing hype machine boils over, it has to be remembered that the ex-Manchester United youth player has less than 30 games to his name and comes to Villa very inexperienced to be considered the instant solution to Villa’s number one spot.
Of course, the ubiquitous Youtube highlights video (see below) will show the keeper’s shot stopping highlights and keep the Twitter experts happy, but in the context of Gollini being able to command a box, marshall a back four, and showcase his communication and distribution attributes, we are none the wiser.
At 21, what Villa have bought at this stage is a prospect, rather than a finished article. While, Gollini is essentially swapping a relegated club in Italy with one in England, lets hope that Di Matteo and new Villa goalkeeping coach Massimo Battara have unearthed the next Buffon, but he should be given time to establish himself.
Lets not forget, Jed Steer, who is considered too young and inexperienced to make the step up now, is two years the senior of Gollini.
With that in mind, signing another more experienced keeper wouldn’t go amiss, to strengthen up a key position for this season and beyond.
As MOMS has mentioned in the last two weekly ‘Villa Paper Wrap’ newspaper round-ups, Villa’s interest in Reading midfielder Aaron Tshibola has rumbled on for a few weeks now. So far it’s been a bit of a cat and mouse chase, but interest seems to firmed up with the Daily Telegraph reporting that a £5 million offer has been accepted, with the player keen to rejoin ex-Reading boss Steve Clarke, who gave him his first break at the Royals.
Last week, it had been reported that new Reading boss Jap Stam was very keen to keep the services of the 21-year-old midfielder, and rejected several bids around the £2 million mark from clubs.
For a player that is barely into double figures in terms of Championship games played and has been curtailed with injury in recent months, any increase in the bidding was likely to melt Stam’s initial resistance.
It’s also for the reason of Tshibola’s lack of actual playing time and proven experience, why MOMS doesn’t see the fee being quite the reported £5 million, at least not as a straight-up fee.
More realistic is a figure north of £2m, but south of £5m, with performance-related add-ons. Apart from 24 games for Hartlepool in League Two, there’s little proven evidence he is ready-made first team material. Certainly though, if the potential is there, he would add a welcome physical presence into the midfield.
it’ll be interesting to see where Tshibola’s role in the Villa midfield will ultimately be – defensive midfielder or more box-to-box? Certainly with his 6ft 2 height, if Gary Gardner (another 6ft-plus player) breaks into the Villa midfield, suddenly Villa will have a serious aerial threat on set pieces, which can only help in the Championship.
In terms of signings so far, at the moment, Elphick is the only player who is a legit first teamer for the Championship season ahead. Do not expect Gollini and Tshibola to be the spine of any rebuilding of the Villa first XI at this stage of the game. Next season will be very much a learning curve for them both.