Hyper Bee Inflation
When the Daily Telegraph first broke Aston Villa’s alleged interest in Brentford forward Ollie Watkins, the headline transfer fee for the Bees forward was for £18m. Within a click, when you got to the story, suddenly Watkins fee was now mooted at £25m.
£7m inflation in a click.
Would Villa really break their transfer record for a Championship striker?
Would they consider dropping £50m for a Brentford double whammy of Watkins and Saïd Benrahma?
You would think based on the principled approach Villa took with Brentford last summer in the negotiations of both the potential Benrahma and Neal Maupay deals, that Christian Purslow and co will not be too impressed about breaking the club’s record transfer with such players.
It’s exactly why the likes of both Johan Lange (Sporting Director) and Rob MacKenzie (Player Recruitment) have been brought into the club. So they can potentially identify such players earlier and get them in, before the likes of Brentford do and profiteer on them. It’ll certainly be more savvy than gambling on inflated prices.
Ollie Good Fit
Ollie Watkins is a decent player and has blossomed since being switched to a more central role last season. He’s a smart finisher (with both his head and feet), has clear attacking intent and keen instinct. The main attraction for Villa would be his proven versatility to play on either flank too.
The Brentford striker certainly fits the bill for Villa, but you have to guard against wishful thinking in terms of how great he’d be. Despite a decent haul of 26 goals this season in the Championship, there are question marks regarding that actually offering Villa any guarantees.
Ross McCormack had a tremendous and consistent scoring record at Championship level and Jonathan Kodjia had a couple of notable seasons in the second tier, but both offered little in the top tier. Indeed, McCormack never kicked a ball in the Premier League.
Villa have already been burnt before buying a hyped Brentford striker too. Anybody remember Scott Hogan?
Villa need to know they are buying potential top level match winners in attacking positions and this is where a £25m fee becomes a question mark for such a player.
Brentford goalkeeper David Raya was previously being mooted to be a target for Manchester City and Arsenal for £10m, but it would be a surprise if both teams would follow up any interest after seeing the keeper make a fatal area at a vital time on the big stage of Wembley Stadium.
It is right not to judge players on just one game, but smarter Premier League clubs will take note of how lower division players play when the pressure is on and the stakes are high.
Brentford ultimately let themselves down beyond just their trip to Wembley. The Bees had automatic promotion in their control in the closing stages of the Championship season. With West Brom winless in their last four games, Brentford simply had to beat either Stoke City or Barnsley in their final two games to win promotion. They bottled it against two teams in the relegation mix, with both Watkins and Benrahma disappointing, when they were needed to seal the deal.
Villa need players they can rely on in the big moments and games, so while it’s not a deal breaker, as they’d improve Villa, it’s a concern when you start to justify such big price tags.
Leeds United and Crystal Palace are also meant to be in the mix for Watkins, whom Palace was allegedly interested in last summer at around the £10m mark.
Villa had baulked at the price of Benrahma in the last summer transfer window, so it’ll be interesting to see how they feel about the same player for between £25m and £30m.
There’s also supposed interest in Benrahma from the likes of West Ham, Leeds, Crystal Palace and Chelsea, but it’ll be interesting to see if any club rushes in at that price. They’ll perhaps wait until the market begins to take shape and the agent press price leaks and media hype cools.
Much has been made of Brentford’s moneyball and data approach, but it’s the attribute that can’t be reduced to statistics that they fell victim to at Wembley. If their team had the same desire, character and tenacity as Fulham’s Joe Bryan, when everything was on the line, then the result would have been different. But data analysis struggles to quantify player’s human and mental attributes.
Such transfer fees that are being spoken about for the Brentford pair would warrant corresponding big wages, but how motivated does that leave the player when they join?
While it’s a generalisation, your McCormack and Hogan’s haven’t shown the same commitment to Villa as players like John McGinn and Conor Hourihane, who came in at a fraction of the price.
When it comes to trying to broker deals for Watkins or/and Benrahma, while clubs are now in position to take advantage of the Bee’s failure to get promoted, Villa have to be careful not to get stung in the process.