The benefit of the Luton debacle – and it is hard to find any, I grant you, is a free week with which the manager and coaching staff can put to good use in getting the squad working in a cohesive unit. With the trip to Ashton Gate this weekend, no doubt tapes of Newcastle’s 1 – 0 win there last Saturday have been studied and lessons absorbed.
It’s also a time when deals can be completed. The first, Ritchie De Laet arrived and on a three-year contract. Whilst predominantly a right back, he is versatile enough to play in the centre as well. The purchase is expected to hasten Micah Richards’ departure to Hull City where he can be the 14th professional in their squad.
And we thought Villa were a shambles off the pitch last season.
Coming so soon after Mile Jedinak’s arrival from Crystal Palace, Roberto Di Matteo is addressing the biggest concern about the squad: the lack of defensive depth. The Australian fits into the back four or midfield which helps considerably with depth and the question has to be asked if we are now fully stocked at the back.
Alan Hutton is likely to become more of a fringe player and De Laet’s arrival may hasten the Scot’s departure, which is no bad thing. Whilst the media attention has been focused on Newcastle’s summer, Villa have gone about their remodelling of the squad very quietly in recent weeks. Six in, seven out with Lescott reportedly being told to ‘do one’ by the club after the farcical failure to move to Rangers. The remainder of his contract is likely to be paid up, according to the Birmingham Mail.
The deadwood is gradually being shifted from the squad. Richards, Lescott, Hutton and Agbonlahor remain; all should be gone by the end of the month. It’s a breath of fresh air to think we have rebuilt ready for the season ahead and hopefully for a promotion place at the end of the season.
There’s still a lot of work to do. Drawing the last two games wasn’t ideal, certainly not the home game against Huddersfield Town, no matter how well they are performing at the moment. The point at the iPro against Derby was decent; I think in hindsight, whilst ruing the two dropped points, we can look back and see a change from the opening day at Hillsborough. We were much more in control and controlled in our play at the weekend, hinting at a stronger presence on the pitch.
One person not joining is Didier Drogba, who has denied that he is on the verge of a return to English football at Villa Park. The Evening Standard carried the story which stemmed from comments on social media from Dr Xia that the club were “working hard to sign a world class No 9”.
Now, I wouldn’t deny that Drogba was world-class back in the day but now as a 38 year-old striker, playing with the intensity required in the Championship is beyond him, I would have thought.
As the owner later said, “We’re not China Villa yet”…