Aston Villa: a look ahead part II
Posted by disappointmentzone on 26 December 2006
Soccer Spot. Enough said.
Aston Villa review and Shopping List part 2
Aston Villa didn’t play a game this weekend. They didn’t lose to Manchester United and certainly didn’t get blown out 0-3 at home. Didn’t happen. All that happened was manager Martin O’Neill got a better understanding of what he’ll need during the January transfer window. That’s all. Really, though, Villa played decently at first, even hitting the post at one point, but then petered out as United began to get the upper hand and dominate both possession and chances. The main issue was defense, though obviously the inability to score was evident once again by the typical goose egg on the Villa side of the scoreboard.
Best news of the weekend, though, is that as of December 19, Villa have the third best player in the EPL: midfielder Gareth Barry. If you’re an EPL buff you probably don’t think of Barry just behind Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, but how can you argue with something “statistically proven to identify the best players“? So kudos Barry and kudos to Actim for knowing what’s what.
Good news coming from the BBC: Villa look like they’re going to offer Tottenham ₤12million (~$20million) for striker Jermaine Defoe, which should ease some of the concerns up front. If that is a suggestion that Villa have at least that much to spend on each midfield and defense, then Villa could make a second half run for a spot in Europe (though it’s probably too much to imagine a Champions League spot – they’re 8 points down on 4th place Arsenal). Darrent Bent has also been suggested as a potential striking addition and I’m not sure who would be better, Defoe or Bent—I think Bent would be a better value since he would probably cost less, though he has less of an upside. Even if these deals don’t happen (there is speculation that Tottenham won’t want to deal Defoe during January), it shows that Villa are willing to invest in their squad rather than limp through the remaining months of the season. One move that could be in the works is Celtic’s Shaun Maloney (22) who is currently refusing to sign a contract with the Hoops, which bodes well for anyone looking to grab him up. He’s young, energetic, and by all accounts worth a small transfer fee now instead of waiting for the summer when he’ll be free. He won the Scottish Premiership Football Association Player of the Year award last season as well as Young Player of the Year. So that would be a pretty good grab for Villa.
Anyway, here’s a short look at the midfield and defensive possibilities for Villa:
Manchester City’s Joey Barton would make a good addition to the squad, despite his occasionally questionable on-the-field behavior (I’d provide a link, but YouTube had deleted all the clips of his shirtless, mooning fun at Everton earlier this year). A pretty good guess for Barton’s price based on previously rejected transfer bids puts him at around ₤5million (~$9million). He’s young, 24, and fully capable of adding some steel to the Villa defensive midfield and some attacking power. West Ham United, however, are reportedly offering around ₤6million ($11million) for Barton, which could put Villa into an unwanted bidding war with another newly purchased and well-financed club.
According to the above-linked BBC article, West Brom’s Zoltan Gera is a possibility, but Barton would certainly be a better signing. Gera is a little older (27) and has less EPL experience, but is perhaps a more consistent and cheaper player. Gera is also perhaps more of a goal scoring threat (Barton takes penalties for Man City, which pads his stats a bit), but not by much if at all.
If Shaun Wright-Philips wants out of Chelsea (or if the club wants him gone, both of which should be the truth), why not at least make a bid for him? He’s a fantastic player and would certainly provide more width to Villa attacks. It’s more of a fantasy than a potential reality (especially since all rumor indicate a return to Man City), but there’s always hope so long as Villa have more money to spend than Man City.
The most linked defender is Celtic’s Bobo Balde, who would lend some strength to the back line, but wouldn’t provide a long-term answer to Villa’s defensive woes. Otherwise there aren’t any high-profile defenders currently on the outs with their clubs and it will take some finagling to get anyone of true quality over January. But I wouldn’t discount O’Neill’s shrewdness and understanding of what it will take to make a mediocre player a solid one.
According to the Football Transfer League, Wolverhampton’s Matt Murray is Villa’s target, though a ₤2million ($3.5million) price tag might put a dent in that plan.