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Aston Villa transfer analysis: Signing Grant Holt for depth is a mistake

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The best justification for bringing in Grant Holt - striker depth - is an argument that makes almost no sense.

Alex Broadway

Back in September, I could apparently see into the future, as proven by the following statement:

on a team that could use some creative midfield help or another defender, spending... on a sixth striker - one who will likely not even start most of the time - seems ludicrous.

That's what I wrote about Paul Lambert's decision to bring in Grant Holt as added depth at striker. Wait, no it wasn't. That was actually what I wrote about Paul Lambert spending £6 million on a move that saw Libor Kozak come to Birmingham from Lazio. As I was reading the understandably displeased commentary on the Grant Holt signing this morning, I realized that my thoughts were going exactly the same way they had when Kozak's move was announced.

The primary arguments in favor of the Holt signing have been:

  • It's a loan, what can it hurt? and
  • We need depth at striker to cover for Kozak!

Neither of those really make much sense. The first may be true, but doing something simply because it won't hurt you is a terrible way to go through life. But it's the second that I'd really like to look at. Libor Kozak did start 8 matches for Aston Villa, so the logical conclusion is that his absence presents a hole in the squad. Unfortunately for that logic, Christian Benteke, Gabby Agbonlahor, Andi Weimann, Aleksandar Tonev, Jordan Bowery, and Nicklas Helenius all exist. Six strikers!

Well, in some ways Aston Villa are special. "Paul Lambert's first choice often involves playing three strikers," the logic seems to go, "so if any more get injured, there will be a significant shortage." The problem here is the assumption that three strikers is the only/best way for Lambert to line up this squad. Even if we brush aside the fact that Lambert could see all of his first three injured simultaneously and still put out a three-striker side, we're overlooking the fact that Villa really aren't at their best with three strikers. With the way Paul Lambert has Aston Villa play, there are three people floating on an island waiting for service that never seems to materialize while the middle of the pitch is given over to the opposition. From a sheerly numerical standpoint, Lambert could probably take better control of the possession game (god, even 45% would look world-beating at this point) and provide better service to his strikers by using a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 setup. (And just imagine if he did that with a better midfield than he currently has!)

So why do Aston Villa need more than six strikers? In a three-striker format, there is enough depth to substitute the entire line. In a two - or one - formation, there is enough to do that multiple times. Look then at the defense. If Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker are injured, how do Aston Villa patch together the back line? Is anyone happy with Leandro Bacuna as a defender? If you want to make an argument for Villa needing depth - and thus taking aging players simply for the sake of having a warm body around - that's where it should be made.

So no, Aston Villa do not need more striker depth. Certainly, some of the second options could be improved upon, but Grant Holt does not do that. If Paul Lambert wants to add depth to this squad, do so in the back. If he'd like to add experience, he could do so in the midfield, an area of the pitch that is desperately calling for something (anything) to change for Aston Villa. But instead he's brought us Grant Holt. And that's a move that just doesn't make any sense.