Aston Villa have finally pulled the trigger on a long-expected move: they've gotten themselves a Sporting Director. The position will be filled by 40-year-old Hendrik Almstadt, who comes to Villa from Arsenal. While with the Gunners, Almstadt worked "with the chief executive and manager in the areas of technical scouting, data analytics, financial budgeting and contract management, the academy and athletic development." The move has all the marks of being a hire influenced directly by CEO Tom Fox, who worked at Arsenal as well before joining Villa.
If what Almstadt did at Arsenal is any indication, we can expect him to focus on off-the-pitch player decisions. And given what Villa have in Tim Sherwood (namely: a well-above-average man-motivating manager) that makes sense. While Sherwood's moves (and rumoured moves) this summer have been largely well met, it will be helpful for him not to have to focus on transfers while simultaneously trying to train a team that came perilously close to relegation last year.
Additionally, it wouldn't be surprising to see Almstadt working on improving the club's contract situations. Whatever you thought of Fabian Delph's almost-departure last week and the criminally low £8 million release clause that came with it, we can all agree that the real problem was letting Delph's contract get to the point where Villa had no leverage and had to accept such a deal.
While it's impossible to say just how well Almstadt will do, I'm willing to give the club the benefit of the doubt. Fox was wildly successful with Arsenal, and they are clearly a club who know how to do things right. If he says Almstadt is worth bringing aboard, I'll buy it. But even if Almstadt isn't perfect, simply making this move shows a lot of intelligence on the part of Aston Villa. By having a Sporting Director to take care of off the pitch stuff, they allow Sherwood to focus on that which he is best at. It plays to the strengths of the club and has a lot of potential to make a sustainable plan for the future so that relegation need not be an annual fear.
Good work Villa. And when you get into the office on Monday, Hendrik, get busy signing us some players. Rumour has it we may have to replace a Belgian striker soon. I hope you've got some good ideas.