The Villa Rant: Aston Villa’s Playoff Hopes Hang on Transfer Window

Cr*ppy New Year

Villa were lucky enough to experience a small Christmas miracle over the festive period, by actually picking up wins despite some of the most atrocious performances of the season. This luck rapidly ran out against Leeds and Cardiff.

It’s still abundantly clear that this club hasn’t improved as much as we all thought and hoped with the change of management. Steve Bruce has given the home fans more to cheer, but in terms of the larger rebuild, after spending over £50m in the summer, Villa seemingly have taken one step forward and two steps back.

Time Is Of The Essence

They say that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and Xia’s ill fated trip to the Italian capital, in his Ford Mondeo, has proven that periods of trial and error and obstacles are inevitable. For Aston Villa’s season there are two major obstacles that jump to mind. A far from satisfactory team and an ever dwindling amount of time to get the job done.

With the season reaching it’s halfway point Villa are still well outside the playoff spots. The ticking of the clock is now deafening for this campaign. Many of us stated that to be in with a chance at going back up, Villa would ideally need to be in and around the top six at the turn of the year. We are certainly behind schedule.


January has what should be a number of winnable games for Villa (in the league at least) but the problem is that Villa aren’t playing like a team that could win anything at the moment.

The opportunity to reinforce the squad is one that will rapidly dissipate if Villa don’t make haste. That may seem a strange idea just a few days after the transfer window opened but the fact is if Villa don’t fill the gaping holes in the team before our next league games, then any new arrivals are likely to be playing Championship football again next year, or be winging there way to clubs in higher positions once again.

With the FA Cup this weekend, Xia and co has a little more time, but must ensure that quality new recruits arrive ASAP. The longer we dwell in the Championship the larger the financial gap becomes to the top division and Villa must at the bare minimum put themselves in a strong position to sneak a play-off place.

What We Want vs What We Need

Villa need serious improvements in personnel, obviously. The problem is that the list is so long it becomes difficult to prioritise exactly what we need.

First things first, we all know it, we need to buy a midfield. A minimum of two centre midfielders in my opinion.  Villa don’t simply have a bad midfield at the moment, we don’t have one. The lack of influence that Westwood and Gardner had on the game against the physical Cardiff midfield was a final warning shot for Villa’s recruitment team.

As it stands, our lamentable group of forwards are even getting the nod in midfield ahead of those who are supposed to be midfielders by profession. When Gabby is a better option that you in midfield, it’s time to move on.

I regularly hear (and say) that we need a creative midfielder, someone Merson-esque. The worrying fact is that this team couldn’t currently support such a luxury player (see Grealish). ‘Creativity’ must come from the midfield supporting the forwards. Too often our furthest player forward is left completely isolated and has to hold up play until his team mates catch up, and opposition defences regroup. First comes structure, then flair can be added.

Classic Villa teams didn’t dominate midfield possession but when the team attacked it did so together and as a result Villa scored often and shared the goal scoring burden. That must be replicated.

Shopping List

The goalkeeping department is in need of an upgrade, but it seems that Bruce’s answer is to loan in another relatively inexperienced keeper (that’s a topic for another day). With his mind potentially made up in that regard, where’s next? Many would say securing a new right-back. I’m obviously keen to upgrade on Alan Hutton.

That said, the defence is not an area of the squad that has been holding us back as much as some other misfiring elements and this one, while important, could potentially be held off until more pressing matters are dealt with.

A Clear Goal

Star man Jonathan Kodjia has departed for AFCON duty and to say the options in his position are thin would be the understatement of the year. Thin is not a word that could be used for Gabby or McCormack at the moment. As much as many are clambering for Hepburn Murphy to continue his first team development, he is yet to show any signs that he is ready or able to become the main man any time soon.

Jordan Ayew has also disappeared to the AFCON. His flair flattered to deceive last term but the guy just doesn’t have the brains to become a real asset. Tony, put one of those Chinese cheques aside for a striker please.

Bouncing Back

After a bright start the realities of being a modern Villa boss should now be clear to Bruce. The ‘new manager bounce’ is over, and this had led to some awful performances. Sunday’s loss at Cardiff, a team we beat 3-1 back in November, can be seen as a huge backwards step. Villa must take advantage of the transfer window ruthlessly (incomings and outgoings) and finally change our trajectory consistently instead of stopping and starting week on week.

That said there can be no messing about this window, Villa must get it right this time. Spending £50 million on strikers is pointless if we can’t build a team. A good window and a run of wins in Jan and Villa could finally put themselves in the picture. Anything else and both Villa’s season and Bruce’s rolling contract could come grinding to a halt.

By the end of this window there won’t be any excuses for our refreshingly straight-talking boss to hide behind. Make it count Brucey.


Don’t forget to follow Finn on Twitter – @FinnMongey

And make sure you’re following MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid


  1. Improve the engine room plus one striker, drop Westy to bench, Gardener too if we can make a decent midfield signing. Agreed we do have players that could move on, but who’s interested?

  2. Other clubs are already making offers and signings, but where are we, been hearing about a new goalkeeper for months, I know that we need to strengthen our midfield and yes we need a right back, but goals win games and we desperately need to look at that department ASAP, don’t think we will see Rhodes because we could have done a P/X deal with Gestede, wouldn’t surprise me if Bruce thinks Gabby will do the job, if that’s the case goodby playoff aspirations.

  3. Given that our record without Westwood starting is P8 W6 D2 L0 (75% win rate) and with Westwood starting is P17 W2 D9 L6 (12% win rate) I’ve got a much, much less expensive solution to start winning some games…….

  4. being linked with scott hogan i admit i did not know much about him and i watched a few vids on youtube,,,

    apart from being a very good player its clear that he has fantastic service,,, clearly we rely on grealish and adoma for service and if we want to get the best from mccormack or rhodes then we need not only lansbury but both full backs need to get more assists and we need another centre mid plus someone capable of playing on the left of midfield

    we have plenty of assets and cash available,,, but we need bruce to get it right,,, and we could sell bacuna westwood mccormack richards kozac ayew elphick gollini and even jedinak,, with hutton and cissoko needing replacing too
    it is a big window for us,, but if we replace ayew, gestede, mccormack and kozac with hogan and rhodes or hernandez
    and bring in lansbury and a few other mids then we will be in a far better position
    but everyone that comes in must be able to provide assists and chip in with goals
    sadly gabby is going no where,,,,,,,

  5. Given the money villa have spent, it should be very obvious that we can’t buy success. So why are people looking to a cheque book solution? Personally the big issue for me is the academy. Bring in the kids.

    Not that I expect them to deliver a miracle either. But on Sunday against Spurs away I expect some of them to get half an hour at least. Rushian needs a run, and Bruce has to stop the Lambert philosophy of 8 minutes at the end.

    And does anyone know what happened to Andre Green?

    Trevor Fisher.

    • Of course the future should be the accademy and if we had not sold Johnson we might not now be looking for a midfield player to fill the obvious gap in the 1st team especially as Lyden the only other obvious is I believe out injured . As for Green not sure why he is not getting a chance unless it’s because our 1st team squad is physically too weak

      • you are right. And way |Samir Carruthers, just bought from MK Dons by Sheffield Wednesday. I weep. However the ones who appear look good and then vanish are the worry. Tonev is now back from Walsall where he did quite well. So why not give him a run out? OK perhaps not Spurs after what they did to Chelsea, but no gain without trying.

        Trevor FIsher,

  6. Very much enjoy your comments from afar, agree with you on just about everything, told my good lady wife before Xmas not to book any holidays in May as we would “hopefully” be winging it back to Brum for the play off’s ! To be honest I have yet to witness ONE decent ninety minutes this season, and when you look at the money we have wasted the last two years in is nothing short of disgraceful
    I used to follow the lads the length and breast of the country in the sixties before emigrating in 69 and we used to get some dreadful mauling’s from all of the top teams, but the players on 30 quid per week still had some pride in the jersey, this mob could not give a rat’s A—-.
    Cheers, forever a Villian, Noel.

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