The bookies don’t usually get too much wrong, and with odds now floating around of 1/25 fir Aston Villa being relegated, it’s looking more and more likely that we are going to drop out of the top division of English football for the first time since 1986/87.
The looming January transfer window, therefore, possess several problems and dilemmas. Most crucially, do we still attempt to try to save ourselves this season, or begin to build a squad that will be competitive in a tough Championship division next year.
Unfortunately, it’s a choice which we may not even be in a position to make.
Villa currently have a frankly pathetic total of eight points. This consists of one solitary victory, which came way back on the opening day of the season against Bournemouth (it is important to take points off your relegation rivals…). With 19 games to go, there is still time to turn things around. But realistically, out of the remaining 57 points on offer, we are looking at trying to snaffle 33 of those points – that means winning 11 of those 19 games. A tall order for a team with a one-in-19 win ratio.
Even faced with such diversity, it surely can’t be an option to simply accept relegation at this point. Whilst most supporters feel we are pretty much doomed, where there is life, there is hope. As one of the grandest clubs in the whole of the game, we have set many firsts and hopefully being the first team to escape this sort of predicament will be another achievement for us.
In order to do so, reinforcements are compulsory. The big problem is that we are not in any sort of position to be a viable option or attractive proposition for the type of player we would ideally like to take on board. Or sadly, even players we would deem suitable to help us battle back from relegation.
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If I see another suggestion for us to sign Charlie Austin, I may very well bang my head against a wall until I pass out. There is zero chance of this happening. And for once it isn’t down to just finances. Austin is a proven Premier League goal scorer. I personally think we should’ve paid the £15million to sign him back in the summer.
After all, that is a drop in the ocean compared to what we are about to miss out on next season. But now, there is absolutely no benefit for Austin’s career in joining us.
Despite a queue of clubs ahead of us in the pecking order anyway, Austin is effectively a symbol of a greater problem that we are facing.
Aston Villa, in its current position, is not even a viable option for so many Championship players. Due to the fact that we are so far adrift right now, we look nailed on to be relegated. With the Championship being notoriously tight at this point in the season, as it will be throughout January, it is feasible to suggest that any team from Fulham upwards, who currently occupy 18th place on 24 points, still have a chance of at least making the play-offs. The Cottagers are 10 points behind 6th placed Ipswich Town, and a run of two or three wins on the spin brings them right into it.
That means that any of the decent players in these 18 teams who we might be looking at will be harbouring hopes of potentially being a Premier League player next year. We can currently only offer a four month relegation fight and a strong possibility that they will still be a Championship player next season, whilst their current team mates make a step up into the big time should they achieve promotion. This rules out players such as Austin, Ross McCormack, Sam Byram, Demarai Gray and a whole host of other promising options.
Other, more established, experienced and impact options will also prove incredibly difficult to land and probably would see our hands severely tied in the process.
For example, a strong link has been a move for Everton’s Steven Naismith. On the face of it, a decent acquisition. A player who will run all day, which is something we are desperately missing, and is also capable of scoring. But what can Villa offer him? First team football, but with the very real possibility of Championship football next season. Not exactly a enticing proposition.
Indeed, if regular action is our only selling point, there is a very real risk that our offer would be gazumped by any one of our rivals who could put a more attractive package on offer. It comes to something when the likes of Bournemouth and Norwich could be preferable destinations over Villa Park, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves any longer into thinking that simply being Aston Villa is enough to give us the edge over the small fry that has, in fact, already overtaken us.
Should we choose the strategy to attempt to salvage this season, the potential danger in all of this is that our only option left is to offer obscene wages to entice our targets. Players will literally be able to bend us over with their demands. This will see our wage bill rise considerably just at a point where have managed to balance Randy’s books.
After an exercise in cost cutting, which has taken five years to clear the likes of Darren Bent and Shay Given off the roster and has landed us in this position in the first place, we may have to completely undo all of this austerity to be able to sign players who will give us a chance of escaping. Relegation release clauses with either huge payoffs or low sell on transfer fees will be written into contracts.
Five year contracts of £50k, £60k, £70k-a-week or even more would be the minimum to attract the players wavering at the thought of joining us. And make no mistake, we aren’t talking world beaters here – we could have Steven Naismith on our books for the next five years on upwards of £50k a week! Mind you, if he kept us up, he’s more than welcome to it.
We are in an extremely fragile position. Whichever way this goes we are in very real danger of a future with more average players on huge wages, or a squad of players not equipped or good enough for a Championship season. Although we may already have that anyway, of course.
There is talk of clearing out the remaining deadwood on huge wages such as Gabby Agbonlahor and Charles N’Zogbia in order to free up some cash to bring in improvements in January.
Easier said than done. Neither exactly has a reputation worth scrapping over and both are sitting pretty on their current contracts. N’Zogbia is reportedly generating interest in the USA and maybe a move abroad is Gabby’s only chance also, but mutual termination of their contracts, especially in N’Zogbia’s case, is the likeliest outcome if we want to rid them; a significant outlay which would render the whole point of freeing up wages pointless.
Randy Lerner has some big decisions to make. Whilst I have always stood by my gratitude for not leading our great club into the sort of debt that Leeds faced after over-spending and trying to keep up with the big boys, the balance hasn’t been struck and we are now in an all or nothing last roll of the dice.
Millions will be wiped off the value of the club he wants to sell if we are relegated, whilst the expenditure needed to keep us in the Premier League, or even to prepare for relegation in a positive manner, will be vast.
Either way, Randy is going to be counting the cost of tightening the reins a tad too much over the last few years.
Any thoughts or comments? Please let me know here or @lovespud83 on Twitter! Thanks for reading!
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