The key to the Championship Big Ron told MOMS in our recent interview was goal scorers. Villa had already planned for that back in the summer, when they seemingly made every effort to stock up on as many strikers as they could who had 20-goal-plus seasons in the Championship on their CV.
Villa signed Ross McCormack, who had scored over 20 goals in a season three times with different Championship clubs and had been close again in a couple of seasons. Then there was Jonathan Kodjia, no striker has scored more goals in the Championship in the year of 2016.
Already in the ranks were Rudy Gestede, who had managed 20 goals in a season playing for a very average Blackburn team. Jordan Ayew, a pricey acquisition from the previous summer, who had international pedigree. Then there was Villa’s leading Premier League era scoring striker Gabby Agbonlahor.
If anything, as this season panned out, Villa had too many strikers to keep happy. Roberto Di Matteo tried to shoehorn as many as he could in the team and Steve Bruce also has succumbed to the same temptation due to a real lack of options in midfield.
In short, Villa’s squad is lacking balance with a weak midfield unable to provide for the talented strike force.
Villa were potentially well covered for the upcoming African Cup of Nations in Gabon despite facing losing both Kodjia and Ayew.
Ayew has been a bit part player this season, while Kodjia is not irreplaceable if McCormack steps up and Villa line-up a new midfielder in early January to help drive the team forward and dictate matches more for Villa’s forwards to do their thing.
Also, Gestede could do a job, if he got a run in the team and had service to exploit his aerial dominance.
No striker scored more headers in 2015 than Gestede, yet it seems nobody informed the respective Villa management teams over the last one and a half seasons. You can pretty much count the amount of crosses Villa deliver in a game on one hand. Decent crosses? Well, sometimes you don’t need fingers to count the lack of them.
The Exit Door
Interestingly, if reports are to believed, it seems Gestede is Middlesborough bound. The Guardian reports that he was present at Riverside Stadium for Boro’s recent game against Liverpool, which is normally a sign that a player has had talks.
It seems at the very least Gestede has been shopped around by his agent, as there’s also been whispers of interest from Crystal Palace, West Ham and Newcastle.
A £6.5m deal makes sense from all parties’ point of views. Even Boro’s, if they can give him the service that he needs to be relevant.
UPDATE: Bruce on Gestede situation post-Leeds game.
“I do believe there’s a Premier League club talking to him [Gestede]. I will probably know more tonight. That’s all I can tell you at the moment.
“I’ve got six centre forwards so I’ve probably got to sell one to bring in another defender or midfielder.” – Steve Bruce
The early reports when Bruce rode into town where that he was looking to trim the strikeforce and McCormack would be the fall guy. That as MOMS suspected was simply lazy journalism or contrived clickbait. The Scottish striker’s record at this level speaks for itself and you suddenly don’t lose your talent over night. Also, Villa would not be so frivolous on an £12m investment.
When you factor in Villa losing Jordan Ayew and Jonathan Kodjia to ACON, it’s hard to look past McCormack as being potentially the most important player in terms of Villa’s promotion hopes.
The reports in The Scum newspaper that Shanghai SIPG managed by Andre Villas Boas are interested in Jordan Ayew has raised some eyebrows. It would be a case of money no object and Villa would be expected to turn a profit on him. Since they lose him for January would Villa be tempted? Obviously it depends on the player.
In the summer, Tony Xia made a public declaration that they wanted to keep Ayew, but has he been impressed enough since with the Ghanian striker? Like many of Villa’s strike-force, it would have been good to see him play down the middle more, especially since Bruce has been happy to play Gabby Agbonlahor there and Gestede.
With nine goals in 50 games for Villa, as a striker, Villa wouldn’t exactly miss him. Use him right though and they may see a better return from him.
If Gestede and Ayew were to ship out and with Kodjia out of the picture for January, then Villa would need to bring in an additional striker, whether permanently or on loan.
Jordan Rhodes has been put forward by the press as a possibility, mainly stemming from Middlesborough’s local press posing the question due to Rhodes having to warm the bench behind Alvaro Negredo this season (and maybe because they think Villa like collecting players called Jordan).
The 1-in-2 Championship striker has also been frozen out of the Scottish national team starting line-up, like Villa’s McCormack. They both previously played in the Scotland set up together.
Whatever happens to Ayew, it’s unlikely with McCormack and Kodjia on-going concerns, that Villa would splash the cash on Rhodes, who himself wouldn’t see any guarantees of starting as Villa’s main striker. Rhodes would also prefer to stay in the Premier League.
A deal seems unlikely, with Villa more likely to go down the loan route to counter ACON.
As for Ayew, it’s likely he’ll be wanting to concentrate on the African Cup of Nations and then think about his future at the end of the season. If Villa don’t get promoted, then exit he probably will.