The summer of 2021 will be one that many football fans will always remember. Some of the greatest ever players moving across Europe and the world, and the first summer transfer window post-Covid has really lived up to the anticipation that was building after the Euro 2020 final, resulting in one of the greatest transfer windows and provided a lot of entertainment and excitement. In terms of Aston Villa, we have provided many interesting stories that have rocked the country.
In this article, I will be reviewing the summer; the ins and outs; the twists and turns that happen over a typical summer and how the fans still have so much to look forward to and on our current path, Aston Villa Football Club are on a journey to travel up the league table.
When discussing the players leaving, I need to address the brummie, floppy-haired elephant in the room. Last summer, Jack Grealish signed a contract extension with the club he loves and “believed in the project” that the new owners had set up and wanted to captain us for that season. However, our CEO Christian Purslow explained that when he signed the contract, there was a ‘release clause’ of sort and that if a club playing Champions League football were to come in for him, the club would not stand in their way of the transfer; providing that the paying club were to offer a record amount of money for a British player. Manchester City at the start of August did pay the £100 million fee needed to require his services, meaning that once again, we had sold our captain/ star player to another one of the teams higher up from us. Despite that though, the way our club handled the entire situation makes it easier for the fans to not only move on but also look forward to the future, especially with who we had signed to ‘replace’ the gap left by Grealish.
Also, as with every window, we have had the chance to get rid of ‘dead wood’ and the players who were no longer needed. Included are players such as Tom Heaton, Neil Taylor, and Ahmed Elmohamady; all 3 have left on a free and Villa have taken the chance to cut the expensive wages- and in Heaton’s place, play for a team that he loves and wants to play for.
Along with these 3, we have smartly loaned out many of our young Villans; some being involved in our Youth Cup victory earlier this year. The likes of Louie Barry, Kaine Kesler, Brad Young and Dominic Revan are all going to be gaining much needed experience in the Football League with Ipswich, Swindon, Carlisle, and Northampton, respectively. These deals have been made with the belief that the future will be bright for them.
Another big departure this summer was that of Irish midfielder Conor Hourihane, who has left to join Sheffield United on loan. Bought from Barnsley, his four and a half seasons at B6 have brought many memorable moments. From his wonderful goal against Birmingham, to his free kick against Newcastle in the Premier League. And unlike some players who have left this summer, Hourihane has shown nothing but class towards the fans and the club which he called home. An ultimate professional, the midfielder, has joined the Blades in hope of getting them back to the topflight.
Finally, some more players that have left just want to play football, and unfortunately with the squad forever improving and pushing each other, there are some who are not going to play enough. Thus, our former record signing Wesley, Frederic Guilbert, and young American Indiana Vassilev have all left on loan to Club Brugge, Strasbourg and Inter Miami, respectively.
The most exciting part of any summer for any football fan is the excitement around fresh faces entering the door and how they improve our team year after year. Because of the sale of Jack Grealish, Christian Purslow, Dean Smith and the Villa back-room team had a plan to sign 3 players to replace several aspects that our former captain had to offer. The result leaves our current squad looking to be in much better shape and before we would struggle if a few ‘first team’ players were unavailable.
One signing being the creative Emi Buendia from Norwich City. For £38 million, he is our record signing and has already shown that he can score in the Premier League. The last time he was in the English topflight, he made the 3rd most chances in the league (only behind Grealish and Kevin De Bruyne) and led the way in multiple defensive stats for an attacker. What he brings is the ‘defend from the front’ mentality, like Ollie Watkins’ tireless pressing all game long. He will also bring the flair and ball-carrying ability that our team needs.
Furthermore, our team lacked an out-and-out goal scorer, someone who knows where the net is, and we trust to not waste his chances. Despite Watkins having a good debut season, he hit the post more times than any other player in the league, meaning that he was not as clinical as we would have hoped. However, the addition of
Danny Ings has already proved to be a great signing. Now, we don’t have to rely on one striker to score for us and will take some pressure off Watkins and he’ll come into his own this season.
Our final signing in the attack was one that shocked many, this was because he’s been linked with the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal in the past few years. Despite that, Leon Bailey of Jamaica joined us from Bayer Leverkusen for a reasonable price of £28.8 million (fee could rise due to add-ons). And consequently, has made our attack a force to be reckoned with and although we lost our most influential player of last season, our depth has improved, and we look stronger than before. The winger joins with a glowing reputation from Germany of being a player who will take on his opposite number and has already provided an assist for our first league goal this year. Safe to say the future is looking good at Villa Park
It has also been a summer for the nostalgic, as 2 of our signings are coming back to Villa Park, having both been at the club for multiple years before. Johan Lange had surprised us all by bringing in Ashley Young and Axel Tuanzebe back to Villa Park. Ashley Young was on the verge of joining Burnley before Villa came in the final moment to steal Young and convince him to come back. What he brings to the team is healthy competition for both fullbacks, and for all the wingers. In an interview after he signed, Young said himself that he feels “fitter than ever” and is “willing to play anywhere he is needed” and will provide many of the youngsters' experience and be a calming head in the dressing room. In Axel Tuanzebe, there is a player who knows the club well from his previous loan moves in the summer’s past, but also will improve our cover and make the squad healthier and more competitive. Gone are the days when fans would panic if a starting center back or key player would cause or team to completely break down; however, with these two new additions, the squad depth has improved and will look at this season with a lot more confidence.
In conclusion, Aston Villa may have only purchased 5 players, but in those 5 they have massively changed the mood around the club and will hopefully bring joy back to the fans, who have had to wait a long time to watch our beloved team again. And with the successful youth academy, we also have the next generation of stars to look forward to and perhaps they’ll prove that we don’t need to go out and buy a superstar, if we have some growing talents already.
TheAVFCFaithful.group | Edited by The AVFC Faithful