Perhaps the most intriguing situation in terms of the Aston Villa first team next season is who will be Villa’s number one? Considering Villa’s threadbare squad, it’s the one position Villa are seemingly well stocked in.
On paper, at least, it looks good – the Norwegian international keeper, the Croatian international keeper and a solid keeper that ended up leading Villa to play-off glory.
The question is though, are those options actually good enough for the Premier League?
In March, Jed Steer was offered a one-year extension as a reward for breaking into the first team, as Villa’s two keeper acquisitions last season recovered from injury at Bodymoor Heath.
Cast away on loan by Steve Bruce and with his Villa contract running out this summer, it seemed to be curtains for Steer. The one-year contract extension was deserved and gave Villa time to see how the season panned out to then reassess their goalkeeping situation in the summer.
Villa had three keepers claim the number one spot last season. Both Ørjan Nyland and Lourve Kalinic were far from convincing, so there’s a reason Steer moved into pole position.
Complicating the situation for Villa though is the fact Nyland had two years to run on his contract, while Kalinic had four. Since they had just joined Villa last season, is it too soon to try and move them on? After all, it wouldn’t say much about Villa’s scouting process in initially getting them in.
In terms of the time line of the summer so far, supposed interest in Stoke City’s Jack Butland was rumoured by the press. A fee of £27m was initially touted. Surely Villa wouldn’t drop that kind of cash on a position that wasn’t exactly a priority compared to others.
Not only would Villa have Butland’s expected big wages on the accounts, but Nyland and Kalinic’s wages would obviously rise too with promotion and then you’d have Steer’s on top of that.
Obviously, Villa would need to offload one or two of their keepers, but would the keepers get better personal terms anywhere else?
Another Villa Redemption
The latest twist in Steer’s redemption story, that is almost up there with the Alan Hutton saga, was Villa announcing last week that Steer had signed a new four-year deal at the club.
Parking Steer’s situation to the side for one second, this seemed to be an odd move for a club looking to spend big on a keeper that would only come to the club if he was earmarked to be their long-term number one.
Steer also wouldn’t have been too keen to sign for four years, if it was very likely Butland was incoming imminently. So, has Steer’s long-term contractual renewal provided a clue of things to come? How much can we read into it?
Such a long-term deal suggested that Steer would be considered as at least one of the top two keepers at the club. First of all, Steer, 26, would want to be playing regularly in the next few seasons and Villa wouldn’t have offered such a long-term deal for someone they expected to be a third string squad back-up.
It would seem to signal that at least one of Ørjan Nyland or Lourve Kalinic, could already be heading out of Villa Park.
While both haven’t really impressed during their short time at Villa, it has to be remembered that both are international keepers for their respective countries Norway and Croatia.
Villa certainly wouldn’t have given Steer a long-term contract out of sentiment. He clearly is fancied above them, so if Butland or another keeper came in as an upgrade, then that would clearly signal that both would be surplus to requirements, but would it be easy to find a suitor for them on a permanent basis?
Kalinic was obviously bought in by Smith to be the club’s number one for last season and the next, whatever division Villa were in. If Smith is willing to give up on him so soon, then he certainly hasn’t been convinced by his purchase.
It’s been suggested that Kalinic has been mentioned as a make weight in a deal with Nante for midfielder Valentin Rongier. Finding a club with a player that Villa want, who also need a keeper, would very much be like the stars aligning for Villa.
Steer’s Premier League Destiny?
If Villa wanted to save some money to spend on other areas of the team though, could Steer be Villa’s number one keeper next season?
At six foot two, it could be argued that Villa could do with more of a presence in the Premier League, if they are to come under more pressure.
That said, Steer has commanded his box better than the 6ft 7 Kalinic on the evidence of last season. Also, factor in that Premier League title winning Ederson (Manchester City) and Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City ) are also 6ft 2, while Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga is 6ft 1, and having extra height doesn’t seem to be a big deal.
In a recent My Old Man Said podcast we’d suggested that Steer is a solid 7/10 keeper, and that perhaps you need a 8/10 + in the Premier League.
Of course, it’s a sweeping statement in terms of grading Steer. Judging by his performances in the 10-game winning run last season and the fact he never put a foot wrong in the play-off campaign, if Steer carried on such form into the Premier League you’d certainly consider him a 8/10.
With that in mind, why would Villa entertain forking out circa £20m+ for a goalkeeper at the moment?
Jack Butland, who has also spent the last season in the Championship, although playing for a bottom half team, will hardly improve Villa instantly by that transfer fee . Granted, despite finishing 16th in the Championship, only three teams conceded less than Stoke City last season, which indicates that Butland is solid.
However, when looking at Steer, the only time he conceded more than a single goal last season in a Villa shirt, was when Villa fielded a weaken team against Norwich City in the deadwood last game of the regular season.
It’s hard to fault Steer’s contribution to the Villa cause last season, which included some heroic moments against Sheffield Wednesday and West Brom, in particular.
If Villa get the centre-back part of the backline equation right, then Steer maybe more than enough in goal.
In an ideal world, if Villa have designs on making an impression in their first season back in the Premier League, MOMS would prefer a Butland and Steer combo over the three keepers Villa have on their books at the moment.
In reality though, with the shorten transfer window this time round, as long as other positions are sorted out, including at centre-back, defensive midfielder and another attacker, then there would be no qualms with Steer starting the season as Villa’s number one.