Robert Di Matteo’s stamp is being put firmly on the Aston Villa squad with many changes still anticipated. Lescott, Richards, Guzan and Agbonlahor are all expected to be released whilst reports are that the club will be shorn of Sinclair, Bacuna and more imminently, Gueye.
If I’m honest, I’ll only be sad to see one of them go.
The manager is in a tough position. He needs players who want to be at the club and he could persuade Gueye to stay but it’s a temporary measure. Clubs like Marseille, more often than not, will be able to offer European football which is something that we’re several years away from achieving, surprise cup run aside.
It’s a question of what Di Matteo is building for. He could fill the side with Premier League deadbeats but we’ve got enough of them already so he has to look for players who can get us out of the Championship. The problem is that once they’ve got us out, are they good enough to stay in the top flight?
That’s got to be a question which comes into every signing. I know it seems like jumping the gun since we’re still a Championship club but there has to be some longer-term thinking involved and I’m sure there is. We can’t replace half the team each year and hope for some cohesion; we’ve got to do it step by step.
With Gollini arriving in goal, Elphick in defence and Tshibola in midfield, I guess most of us will be looking for at least one striker to come in. Gestede has proven himself at this level in distinctly average Blackburn sides; surely it’s not too much to hope that he’ll perform well for us as well?
Perhaps Jordan Ayew will also; it’s a level he’s unfamiliar with whilst nobody’s that familiar with the unfortunate Libor Kozak. The solution to the goal-shy attack has to come from outside. A forward with “loaded bullets” as Dr Xia put it on Weibo.
Favourite, in the media at least, to be signed is Bristol City’s Jonathan Kodjia.
He’s got experience at this level in England and France, having no problem scoring in either country’s lower leagues. Crucially, he must have promise beyond this level with Ivory Coast awarding him two caps – one goal – at full international level.
The season is less than a month away with Di Matteo already aware that his squad is too big; 28 professionals with more arrivals apparently incoming is going, at some point, to mean that the club has to sell to afford the weekly wage bill.
I wonder though, if the likes of Agbonlahor will be offered a pay-off? How much could we realistically get for the non-scoring forward? £1m at a push – would it cost that much to hand him back his registration and give him a free transfer?
The club has probably already quietly explored the option. Maybe not – appeasing my personal preferences isn’t a luxury they can afford right now! At least things are happening at the moment and that’s all we can ask for.