Life at Aston Villa couldn't have started any better for Steven Gerrard with two wins out of three. The midfield looks like a completely different beast compared to earlier in the season with fringe players like Marvelous Nakamba being completely transformed under the new manager, and the defence now looks more akin to the defence of last season than the early parts of this somewhat disastrous campaign.
All this positivity however doesn't change the fact that Gerrard and the board will still look to bolster the squad in this upcoming January transfer window as originally planned. It's no secret that Wes Edens & Nassef Sawiris are more than happy to back Christian Purslow's main man as Gerrard looks to bring in players that not only suit his style of play but also have the right mental attitude. In this article I'll look at the positions that the manager alongside Sporting Director Johan Lange might look to improve upon as well as the players they might target. I'll also touch on some potential departures at the end as well. Note before we get started that I do not claim to be in the know whatsoever and these are just the predictions of a humble supporter!
Okay there's no denying that Matt Targett has had a bit of a resurgence in the last two games, even grabbing his first goal in 770 days for the club. I'm far from suggesting he be dropped for a new flashier left back but changes elsewhere in the squad have left Villa a little lightweight in this area. With Steven Gerrard reverting Ashley Young back to an attacking threat, backup for Targett is nearly nonexistent with a slightly out of position Kortney Hause being the only real option outside of looking towards the youth.
Bringing in another left back not only provides adequate cover but also pushes Targett and creates competition for that place which can only be a good thing! Also it's worth remembering the torrid time Targett had this season before the change of manager and two good games doesn't guarantee he won't run into another rough patch. Having another option would not only help the team, but would give Targett a well earned break during these tough runs.
So who might the recruitment team look towards? It's going to be very easy to look at Gerrard's former team and start cherry picking Rangers players. I'm of course going to be guilty of this a little later on but not here. Sure Borna Barišić might be a player Gerrard likes but at 29 years of age, the Croatian might not fully fit the criteria Villa are looking for. Another Croatian left back being linked however is VfB Stuttgart's Borna Sosa. The 23 year old has been compared by some to a young David Beckham and managed to achieve nine assists for his club last season. However Stuttgart often play him as an attacking wing back rather than as a part of a classic back four which Gerrard seems to prefer. The transfer fee could also be an issue as Stuttgart will want to hold onto their promising star and will likely be asking for a fee in the region of £30 million and above! Yes I realise we have money to spend but I can't help but feel that much money for a left back might be a bit pie in the sky.
If Villa are looking to spend money elsewhere then we may be tempted to look towards the loan market and maybe even take advantage of Steven Gerrard's affiliation to his beloved Liverpool. Andy Robertson is of course back doing the business for the reds but let's not forget how well his Greek understudy Konstantinos Tsimikas was playing at the beginning of the season. Could we tempt him away from Anfield with the potential of more first team football? Possibly. I'd imagine that Klopp wouldn't want to risk losing his main backup player though and having a recall option as part of the deal may be the only way to get this one over the line. Personally I'd prefer a more permanent option but let's not rule this one out.
It feels like every Villa fan and their mother has been crying out for this one and it still baffles me that we never went all out for a midfielder in the summer. Sure we tried for James Ward-Prowse but after taking Danny Ings from the Saints, this one never really felt realistic to me. I'd love for us to try again in January despite how unlikely it may be. There's a small chance the idea of playing under Steven Gerrard might be enough for JWP to ask for a move but given its mid season and he recently signed a new deal, I think this one is highly unlikely.
Now's the time I make that Rangers connection! Glen Kamara seems like an obvious target for the Villains and for good reason. Of course we know Gerrard is a fan of the player and getting him in through the door at Villa Park should be reasonably straightforward compared to some other targets in the same position. Rangers are of course a massive club but the attraction of Villa and Premier League football to a 26 year old who is just hitting his prime would surely be too good to turn down. The only concern I have is that he appears to be more of a box-to-box midfielder rather than a defensively minded one which is what I feel we're more in need of right now.. despite Nakamba's great performance this past weekend.
My dream scenario would be Brighton's Yves Bissouma. I'm not alone in believing he's exactly the sort of player we need at Villa. His Kante-esque style of play would free up the likes of John McGinn to be a more attacking outlet like he is for Scotland and he of course knows the league very well. The only downside to this move is of course the player's recent arrest and subsequent release on bail. I don't feel I know enough about the situation to really cast any judgement right now but that may be the sort of trouble we don't want to bring to our club.
It's also worth pointing out that Villa are not alone in wanting a player of Bissouma's standard as every time I flick on Twitter there seems to be a new club interested in him, so this one could turn into quite the bidding war if Brighton have any intention of selling.
Number 10 role/Winger
This one feels way down the pecking order and probably only a move that would happen if somebody was to leave the club first.
It's been well publicised that Gerrard likes to play two roaming attacking number 10's behind the striker who can also double as wingers if needed. The fact that Gerrard sees a 36 year old Ashley Young as one of the main men to fill this role may say a lot about how he currently views our current crop of attacking players. Sure, there's no denying the quality of a player like Leon Bailey and he's arguably the future of the club but it may take a while for him to bed into Gerrard's new system. Emi Buendia seems like the ideal candidate to play here as well but his confidence seems shattered right now and there may be room for one more player to come in and help out.
Once again I'm going to make that all too easy Rangers connection and mention Ryan Kent. He knows the manager and he knows the style he wants to play and could potentially hit the ground running. As I mentioned earlier I think Glen Kamara is a strong possibility so the chances of Rangers letting them both go feels like a stretch, so it may have to be one or the other. Once again though I need to stress how other areas of the pitch need improving first so I'm not going to speculate on this one much more than I already have.
I just spoke about attacking players needing to leave before we bring anymore in and with the style of play Gerrard is implementing I could see potential trouble for some of our wingers.
Anwar El Ghazi has become something of a cult hero to yours truly but if I'm being brutally honest I can't see him being around much longer. He's been a great servant to the club and was a massive part of not only our promotion campaign but keeping us up as well! However I can't really see a place for him in this team bar being an impact sub which I don't think he would want. He's still only 26 so now might be a decent time to cash in and make some money to spend elsewhere. The same could be said for the returning Trezeguet but I'd expect Gerrard to give him a chance to prove himself first after such a horrible injury.
Elsewhere the only realistic departures I can see happening in January are loan deals for our younger players. Keinan Davis was cruelly denied a loan move in the summer thanks to a poorly timed injury so I'm hoping a championship club will take a punt on him for the rest of the season if he can stay fit. I've heard some rumbling about Dean Smith wanting him at Norwich and I've got to say I'd be chuffed to see him link up with Deano again. Selfishly I'd hope for it to be a loan deal but I wouldn't rule out a permanent move on that one.
I'd also like to see Louie Barry recalled from Ipswich and loaned back out elsewhere as it really doesn't seem to be working for him over there. I think a League One club would still be a decent fit but I'd be happy to see him go to a League Two side if it means he gets more game time. I think Villa should also explore a loan deal for Carney Chukwuemeka. The youngster seems dead set on not signing a new deal due to his lack of first team football. Personally I think he should look towards the success of Jacob Ramsey as proof of there being a pathway for young players but if he's that set on playing now then I say let him. Let him go somewhere and prove he deserves a first team spot rather than just talking about it.
I've waffled on enough so I'm going to leave it there. I was going to touch on the rumours around us looking at a new centre back but I can't help but feel that's nonsense and the idea of replacing Konsa or Mings really doesn't sit well with me.
Thanks for reading. For much quicker takes on the mighty Villa make sure to drop me a follow @MikeyGalaszia and make sure as always you're keeping up to date with @AVFCFaithful_
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