Aston Villa spent big in this transfer window, but did they make the right signings? THT analyses the Midlands club’s summer business and gives its verdict.
The transfer window rarely fails to entertain. Supporters are more interested in behind the scenes chatter between clubs, players and agents, which has become the primary source of curiosity and amusement during the impasse between two playing seasons.
For Aston Villa supporters, this particular summer was one of anxiousness and excitement in equal measures. While there was plenty of incoming transfer activity at the club, the uncertain future of star man Jack Grealish gave the Villans many sleepless nights.
As Grealish departed, it opened the door for Aston Villa to make some important moves in the market and acquire key targets. From what we gather, Dean Smith wanted to sign attacking reinforcements and a quality striker and strengthen the defence to a certain level at least.
So did Aston Villa achieve their goals in this summer transfer window? Let’s find out as THT analyses the Midlands club’s activity in the market.
INS: Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey, Danny Ings, Ashley Young (Free), Axel Tuanzebe (Loan).
OUTS: Jack Grealish, Mbwana Samatta, Bjorn Engels, Tom Heaton (free), Wesley (loan), Conor Hourihane (loan), Frederic Guilbert (loan), Wesley (loan), Neil Taylor (released), Ahmed Elmohamady (released)
MVA (Most Valuable Addition): Emiliano Buendia
For this category, there are other contenders in Danny Ings and Leon Bailey. While the former Southampton striker is a seasoned professional in the Premier League, Bailey has played senior football in Germany. However, the most valuable addition for Aston Villa this summer is Emiliano Buendia.
Villa wasted little time in acquiring the diminutive Argentine attacker right before Copa America. They had the task of convincing Buendia to join them instead of Arsenal, who were interested. The tide turned in their favour when Villa made it clear where they wanted the Argentine to play. As things got clear, Buendia was tempted to join them ahead of Arsenal, who were in the market for an attacking midfielder.
Buendia has been playing in English football since 2018 and featured in one full Premier League season with Norwich City. However, his time in the Championships has been prolific and influential, making him a certain target for many big clubs.
His early capture by Villa highlighted a clear transfer strategy as the sale of Jack Grealish loomed over their heads. Buendia offers a different threat to the English star in the attack. His quick playing style and prolific numbers in front of the goal make him a viable threat to opposition sides.
Buendia registered 15 goals and 17 assists last season in the Championship as Norwich marched to the title. His acquisition certainly makes Villa a viable competitor in the Premier League, a signing who could most certainly provide them with a passage into the top half of the Premier League table.
Shrewd Work (A Departure That Is Ideal For All Parties): Jack Grealish
The England star had been the subject of a move away from Aston Villa for some years now. His growing stature as a superstar was confirmed when Manchester City registered an early interest in him. His eventual departure may not come as a surprise, as Villa fans endured many sleepless nights wondering where Grealish might play his football next season.
Grealish had grown into a prominent role at Villa, captaining the side and leading their attacks. After signing a contract last year, Aston Villa decided to include a large buyout clause within. The clause stipulated that Villa listen to offers from clubs playing in the Champions League and that Grealish would be allowed to leave if an offer was forthcoming.
While the clause was widely reported at £100 million, Manchester City showed no hesitation in paying the fee, smashing the British record transfer in the process. While most Villa fans would have been unhappy with his exit, it did open up new opportunities for the club.
From Villa’s transfer activities this summer, it was evident they had been preparing for Grealish’s departure. By the time he was sold, Villa had already signed Buendia from Norwich and were on the trails of Leon Bailey as well. Grealish’s sale allowed Dean Smith to continue his rebuilding project, with a boosted budget.
With his best footballing days ahead of him, Grealish, 25, was sold at the perfect time by Villa. While the club has already invested all the money into three attacking talents, they can look forward to strengthening in the next windows even further.
Buendia, Ings, Bailey, Bertrand Traore, Anwar El Ghazi and Ollie Watkins feature an attacking line that oozes experience, energy and talent. In the medium to long term future of the club, these players will likely form a formidable force that could help Villa break into the top-six of the Premier League.
The Big Miss (A player who should have left): Kortney Hause
Most of Smith’s recruits at Villa have integrated well into the squad, barring a few. As is the story with every club, some players become unwanted and out of the manager’s plans after a few seasons. One of them is Kortney Hause, who the club do not seem to rate so much.
Hause saw his career tail off at Wolves after two good seasons playing regularly for the club. Aston Villa sensed an opportunity and signed him on a bargain back in the summer of 2018/19. While Smith never really sought him to become the club’s starting centre-back, Hause did provide decent cover when needed.
However, Hause barely played during his three seasons. Despite the minimal interest, Villa were prepared to sell him this summer. West Ham United were supposedly keen at one stage, as David Moyes searched for a defender in Hause’ age bracket.
After signing Kurt Zouma from Chelsea, the Hammers automatically ended their lingering interest in Hause, leaving the defender to spend another season on the fringes at Villa Park probably. There might have been enquiries on deadline day, but the fact that he remains at the club shows no viability in those reports.
With one year left on his current deal, Villa might have done better to sell him. While they may not rate him so much, Hause could still have fetched a nominal fee. In the first three games, the centre-back did feature after an injury to Tyrone Mings. However, Smith did bring in Axel Tuanzebe on loan from Manchester United, who played a much significant role in Villa’s promotion-winning campaign than Hause.
While Villa have barely shown indications to sell any of their proper first-team stars, Hause might have been their only option to sell alongside Keinan Davis, probably.
Verdict – SUCCESS
If we look closer at Villa’s transfer dealings, they have made a decent net profit of over £24 million this summer alone. It could have been more had they managed to sell either of El Ghazi or Traore. Their spending also mirrors last summer’s expenditure when they spent a similar amount on incoming players.
Ever since Smith took over as manager, Villa have been carefully building their squad. It has taken three seasons to finally make the team capable of challenging for a higher position in the table and one that can stick around for the club’s medium to long-term future.
Credit must be reserved for Villa’s owners who have backed the manager heavily in the transfer window. Villa spent around £91 million on arrivals in 2020-21 and have spent nearly £90 million in this window. In the 2019-20 windows, the club spent a massive £143 million on multiple players to build a base in midfield and defence.
However, we reckon Villa has sufficiently strengthened in attack, defence, and midfield with great potential players and good resale value. Smith has used the window and funds well to build himself a squad full of experienced, energetic and hungry professionals, who improve the side massively for the years to come.