The Reality of Cameron Archer’s Move to Sheffield United

Cameron Archer Signs for Sheffield United

Cameron Archer has finally been revealed today as a Sheffield United player, for a transfer fee that is thought to be in the region £18.5m. The money will be seen a good return by Aston Villa for a 21-year-old who still has yet to score a Premier League goal.

Archer’s main impact at Villa came in the League Cup, making his debut when he was 17-years-old against Crewe, and then two years later scoring a hat-trick against Barrow in the same competition, and then scoring against Chelsea in the following round. Archer’s reputation though principally built on loan in the Championship, when he scored seven goals for Preston, followed by 11 for Middlesborough in the following season.

Archer’s Emery Trial

With Archer on loan at Middlesborough when Unai Emery came to Villa, perhaps the first test in Emery’s eyes was if the striker could make a difference for Boro at the business end of the season, in the Championship play-offs. Archer’s impact was minimal, as his team failed in their promotion bid.

Then Emery’s final assessment of the player would have been on the Premier League Summer Series USA tour. A missed penalty didn’t help Archer, but he didn’t make as much impact, as you’d expect of someone who had an actual pathway to break into the Villa set up. With the Europa Conference League and the domestic cups, there was certainly games for him to be involved in this season, but now is not a time for sentiment at a club wanting to go places. At 21, Archer needed to be making an impression in pre-season. It was definitely ‘put up or shut up’ time in terms of being in Villa’s match day squad.

Archer is an instinctive finisher, that’s for sure, but in terms of how Emery sets up in the Premier League with a single striker, Archer’s perhaps doesn’t have the presence to replace Watkins, nor the all-round game to play alongside Watkins. Tactically, Emery prefers more versatile forward players like Moussa Diaby and Nicolò Zaniolo. And it very much seemed that Jhon Duran, at 19, had jumped the queue ahead of Archer.

Fee vs Potential

Then of course, there’s the fee of £18.5m, which Villa would have deemed too good to turn down, as it’s a big help in terms of FFP. Potential is one thing, but delivering it in the Premier League isn’t guaranteed. You only have to ask Sheffield United about their £23.5m transfer of Liverpool prospect Rhian Brewster, two years ago.

Brewster failed to score in 27 appearances in the Blades Premier League season of 2020/21, before hamstring injuries have hampered the two seasons that followed in the Championship. To his credit, Archer has more goals (18) in less Championship games (40), than Brewster (14 in 50). Liverpool certainly didn’t contemplate executing their buy back clause one Brewster, which reportedly expired in June this year.

Villa are supposed to have a buy back clause on Archer, that triggers if the Blades get relegated. It’s highly unlikely though, if Archer hasn’t scored enough goals to keep his new team up in the Premier League, that he’d have much use for a Villa team chasing European glory and a top six finish.

We wish him luck though, and long with Aaron Ramsay, he’ll no doubt be a player Villa supporters will wish well and keep tabs on.