Raise your hand if you're frustrated with Villa. If you don't have your hand up, remember that it's impolite to lie. It's been a rough couple of weeks, without question. After the immense high that was the Manchester United game, we've been subjected to more injuries (when we thought no more were possible), the disappearance of our defense, and an unsettling return to the inability to finish we've seen throughout the season. Oh, and Stephen Ireland.
But there is a light on the horizon. Come January 1, we not only flip the calendar to 2011, we open the transfer window. There's bound to be some sort of relief, though what kind looks increasingly likely to be determined by our injury report at the time. With the window in mind, this week's question comes from one of our fearless leaders, Ms. Bannan herself. Be sure to add your thought in the comments, and you'll find ours after the break.
This Week's Question: Assuming the rest of the squad remained the same--and relatively healthy--which player would you most like Villa to buy if money were no object? Why?
(Note: we've all sort of agreed to not be too ludicrous here, so don't shred us for not picking the Ballon d'Or finalists. As Aaron pointed out in our back-and-forth emails, "there's really no answer to this question that is not Lionel Messi.")
Aaron: Riccardo Montolivo. Without hesitation. Would an elite central defender or striker be a wonderful thing? Certainly. But in terms of the talent currently on this squad, you'd be hard-pressed than to do better than adding a 25 year old that has developed into one of the best deep-lying playmakers in the world. Consider how dangerous this side can look with Richard Dunne providing the service; can you imagine paring someone with Montolivo's long delivery skills with an attacking foursome composed of Agbonlahor, Albrighton, Downing and Young? Montolivo is also a danger from set pieces, a threat at goal from distance and a quality defender. He's basically an Italian James Milner, only worth the money Manchester City paid for James Milner.
I'm not convinced that the central defense is nearly as bad as they might appear to have been this season. Warnock is an idiot, but he's not bad. Luke Young is an idiot and is also bad, but I'm not convinced that going to the transfer market in search of a replacement is an especially wise use of resources as long as Eric Lichaj hasn't had an extended look (and I say that as objectively as possible.) Barry Bannan looks like a special player as an attacking midfielder and we've got more wingers than we know what to do with. Gabriel Agbonlahor has all the necessary skill to be a dangerous striker. What Villa don't have is a true box-to-box mid. And that's Riccardo Montolivo. Would Bastian Schweinsteiger, Cesc Fabregas, or Kaka be more attractive options? Well, yeah. But my brain won't let me consider such options. They are impossible, where Riccardo Montolivo is merely implausible. And so to implausibility I say, abbandonare il viola per il chiaretto e blu. (I am sure that is butchered.)
Gareth: I think I mentioned this in the post-game reaction post, but I'm officially starting a "Bring Gary Cahill Back To Villa" Campaign. I'll probably talk about it more on Tuesday, but it could not be more obvious that our main weakness is our defence. All of them, most notably Richard Dunne, have been woefully inconsistent and mistake-prone. Then again, maybe Luke Young is our weak link and James Collins can play with Carlos Cuellar, the Invisible Man. Seriously, can someone let Carlos Cuellar get a run out? Is that too much to ask?
If money is no object, we'd have Nemanja Vidic. He has been absolutely immense for United this season, and he's not yet 30. He would be the replacement for the sucking hole we've had in the centre of defence since Martin Laursen retired. In more of a defensive midfield role, I feel like Jack Rodwell would be a great replacement for Milner and Barry in the centre of the pitch. Plus, he's only 19, a whole two years younger than Barry Bannan and Marc Albrighton. I'm worried about being Premiership-centric, but I think it's pretty well known that Villa don't have a great foreign scouting network (Cheers, Martin O'Neill!) Furthermore, I'm not sure a really cultured player would fit in to this Villa side. As much as I love it on paper, I don't know if Javier Pastore or Jeremy Menez would slot in well behind Gabriel Agbonlahor or The Ghost of John Carew. It just feels wrong, no matter how much I want it to happen. Damn it Villa, why can't we have nice things?
Kirsten: When I first considered this question, I thought for sure Villa needed a right back. Pick up Maicon (hopefully injury-free) or Philipp Lahm and get Luke Young as far away from the pitch as possible. Then I realized: Villa were just fine last year when using a player that everyone contends Martin O'Neill put out of position--Carlos Cuellar. The issue is not with our forward movement. Marc Albrighton on that wing is enough in that context. Cuellar can stay back and defend, meaning James Collins won't have to come out of position to compensate. Plus, we have Eric Lichaj, who I mention so that Aaron won't kill me. So over to the left, where Stephen Warnock has fallen off a cliff to become one of the Villa's worst liabilities.
Enter Fábio Coentrão. The wingback is currently one of the best reasons to watch Portuguese side Benfica and, as implied from the position I am giving him, is actually able to move forward in attack. But the defense is what's essential here. The young, speedy left back, age 22, is actually disciplined enough to get back to his defensive duties after moving forward. Right now, we've often seen Stewart Downing playing much too far back, having to defend more than he should to compensate for both a lack of a strong defensive midfield and the fact that Warnock sometimes goes out to lunch. With Coentrão on the left, Richard Dunne wouldn't keep getting pulled away and then rushing in to make rash tackles in last-minute defense (or worse, putting the ball into the Villa net). An ability to balance defense and attack, footballing intelligence, and relative youth--just what Villa need.
Robert: Well, if money is no option, I'd say we'd be crazy not to find some way to get a clone of young Pele. ::reads note again:: Aw shoot. Well in the case of not being too ludicrous, I have to admit for having a bit of a thing for Yaya Touré. He's not a terrible defender, and he has the ability to get up the field as well. Strikes me that it wouldn't hurt us to have a little help on both sides of the ball. Someone who doesn't look overly prone to boneheaded mistakes? Sure! Someone who can set up an attack? Wonderful! Plus, he's got the best name this side of Yossi Benayoun.