The big Aston Villa story today comes to us courtesy of Sky Sports (and probably other places, too) and it's sure to elicit a completely reasonable and appropriate response from Villa fans; Alex McLeish has stated that, unless players are sold - something he does not appear to be expecting - there will be no further signings in the January transfer window. McLeish specifically addresses James Collins, acknowledging that there is likely a fair amount of interest but claiming that "there's not been an approach as such." The most recent semi-plausible Villa transfer rumor has connected Collins to Blackburn, with Villa sending the player and cash to Rovers in exchange for defender Scott Dann.
If you've been paying attention, this isn't news. At all. This is what we heard in August, and save for a week where McLeish seemed to be publicly asking for funds before completely dropping the issue and returning to the company line, it's what we've heard any time a reporter has inquired about potential transfer dealings. Once again, the wage bill is the main focus of the issue, and I think that's encouraging; Villa have some players making some pretty hefty wages, and if Lerner is willing to pony up for transfer fees so long as the wage bill stays under control then we could actually see some movement. But that's pure speculation, and I don't think we're going to get any clearer an indication that someone has to go before anyone else is brought in.
Things could change; Villa could drop their next two games before the close of the window and one of the bottom three could make a surge, making Villa's position look much more tenuous and forcing Lerner to free up funds in order to nip the threat of relegation in the bud, but that doesn't seem likely. As poor as Villa has been at times this season, they've never looked like a relegation candidate to me and there are some really bad teams in the Premier League this season. For now, there's no reason not to believe the club's official line.
And that just shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. I think at this point that the club's current approach is clear (and if I'm correct, it's not as bad as people seem to think; more on that next week.) The board is very intent on cutting the wage bill significantly and keeping it there (for the time being) and have been publicly stating as much for at least a year now. People don't necessarily have to like it (and oh boy howdy do a lot of people not like it) but this isn't a new revelation. This is a rebuilding phase. They aren't generally very pleasant, but unless your club is owned by someone for whom money is no object and monetary losses no concern, they're completely necessary from time to time.That's just the nature of the beast.