Since the start of the transfer window MOMS has indicated a concern to the potential effects of the African Cup of Nations on the Villa team come mid-January next year.
As we indicated in our article in July key Villa players could miss the following games starting from mid-January, we even mentioned that Jonathan Kodjia could have the same issue if we signed him (yes, we can see into the future).
Originally, the list of Villa’s African national team players that could potentially taking a break from Villa’s promotion push was Jordan Ayew (Ghana), Rudy Gestede (Benin) and Idrissa Gueye (Senegal).
While Villa sold Gueye to bring the number down to two players, their transfer activity this week has boosted the figure to four key players. The aforementioned Kodjia has recently broken into the Ivory Coast set-up and Albert Adomah is a Ghanaian teammate of Ayew.
So, it’s more than a worry that Villa could loss four members of their forward line for the following games (and any additional FA Cup fixtures):
Jan 14th – Wolves (a)
Jan 21st – Preston (h)
Jan 28th – Bristol City (h)
Jan 31st – Brentford (a)
Feb 4th – Notts Forest (a)
When you’re going for the automatic promotion you don’t take chances with 15 points, and that’s before you consider any other knock-on effects like jetlag and taking time to settle back into the team after a break.
Also, what happens if Ross McCormack gets injured over this period, or more likely, suspended?
There seems to be very little time to buy any more players to boost the squad to cover this situation, so one make shift idea would be to get the likes of Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Libor Kozak, and dare I say it, Gabby Agbonlahor up to speed, to cover the period.
That means obtaining loans for all three up until January, especially if the later two of the three can’t be sold on.
It’s been reported that Coventry are interested in Hepburn-Murphy and a short-term loan would be perfect to blood him in regular proper senior games. The 18-year-old academy player was one of the brighter lights during Villa’s preseason season and might be able to at least provide extra dimension in Villa’s squad over the period of the African Cup of Nations.
A loan period up to January for Kozak is perhaps essential to help him get his career back on track, not to mention shake off the rust and bring him up to speed after his recent long lay-off. It’s unlikely that any team would take a punt on his long-term at the moment, so a period to prove himself would benefit all parties and give him a chance of a parting Villa swansong.
Break Glass in Case of Emergency
Meanwhile, if nothing more long-term can be found for Gabby, this maybe a chance to prove his fitness and get some Villa salvation earlier than he could have ever had expected. With Gabby, it’s certainly only a break glass for emergency option.
After a successful transfer window so far, the only weaknesses in Villa’s promotion push are both this African Cup of Nations dilemma and the question mark over Pierluigi Gollini. Apart from that, it’s all good.
Over to you Di Matteo.