Exactly a week after Fabian Delph announced that he was to stay at Aston Villa, Fabian Delph signed for Manchester City. But it's not all bad, here are five reasons why Aston Villa are better off without our former captain and midfield linchpin.
This is kind of obvious, but needs mentioning. Yes, whilst the £8 million release clause in Fabian Delph's contract is far less than his true worth, losing him for £8 million is far better than losing him on a free transfer, which would have happened had he not signed the contract extension back in January. So when you consider that £8 million on top of the £32.5 million that the club is about to get from Liverpool for Christian Benteke, Aston Villa actually have quite a lot of money to spend this summer.
Villa have already started splashing the cash this off-season, bringing in Idrissa Gueye and left back Jordan Amavi just yesterday for significant fees. Despite this, there is possibly around £20-30 million left to spend, maybe even more factoring the money received for Andi Weimann, Yacouba Sylla and Matt Lowton.
Of course, it's all well and good having money, but Tim Sherwood needs to invest wisely to minismise the impact of losing two of our better players. But if the recent signings of Micah Richards, and the aforementioned Gueye and Amavi are anything to go by, the club should be able to make some shrewd signings.
2. Opportunities to impress
This week, Aston Villa were linked with another central midfielder, in Malaga's Sergi Darder. Now, if he signed and Delph stayed, if would likely be the end of either Gary Gardner or Ashley Westwood's Aston Villa career. But with Delph gone, even if Darder, or indeed another central midfielder signs, there should be opportunities for both Westwood and Gardner to feature in the senior squad.
Obviously, based on current ability, Delph is better than Gary Gardner, but it's worth noting that Delph came back from injuries to break out two seasons ago, aged 23. Gary Gardner has also battled back from serious injuries and heads into the upcoming season as a 23 year old hoping to emulate Delph's success of the last two years. Plus, unlike Delph, Gardner isn't afraid to shoot from distance, and, in a Villa side that often looked devoid of any creativity (see: FA Cup Final), a player that is willing to have a go (aside from Aleksandar Tonev) could be a valuable asset.
3. More width means more Gil
As mentioned in Alex's piece on Sergi Darder ( here ), signing another central midfielder would give Villa five, possibly six first team quality central midfielders. This would almost force Villa to play narrow, with three central midfielders, just to keep everyone happy. Formations such as 4-1-2-1-2 or a narrow 4-2-3-1 could be seen to utilise the options in midfield.
Of course, utilising such formations would severely limit the game time of wider players. Whilst Jack Grealish would probably still feature in an attacking midfield type position, Scott Sinclair and Carles Gil may not be so lucky.
In this respect, Fabian Delph leaving is a good thing. A new addition to the midfield becomes a replacement and not an addition, which gives the side more options in terms of formations. This means more opportunities for Sinclair, but more importantly, more opportunities for Carles Gil. Since Tim Sherwood's appointment as manager, we have hardly seen the Spanish playmaker, but given his form thus far in pre-season, it would be surprising not to see more of Gil this term. In terms of offensive output, Gil offers more than Delph ever could, although Delph is more well rounded.
4. Another cog in the City machine
Financial Fair Play is a joke, and it acts to stop middle of the pack teams from breaking out. Aston Villa are definitely in this group of teams, with the likes of Tottenham, Everton, Southampton and Newcastle. Manchester City are not. It would not have mattered if Manchester City didn't sign Fabian Delph, they have the financial power to be able to sign world class players, so they would have just signed an equally as good, if not better player should Delph have stayed. This basically means that Delph has gone from being a key player in an Aston Villa side, to a squad player for Manchester City.
Now, if Delph had signed for Tottenham or Southampton, then he would be improving one of our direct rivals at our expense. So whilst Delph leaving has weakened our side until we can replace him, it hasn't come at the expense of one of our rivals improving. From this perspective, Delph going to Manchester City isn't too much of an issue in terms of his destination.
Delph doesn't really improve the Manchester City midfield anyways. He comes in replacing James Milner, who is arguably a better midfield option than Delph. In terms of where Delph fits in to what is normally a two man midfield, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho are definitely better options, whilst Fernando is probably of an equal standing to Delph. So he could find himself leaving Villa for a place on the City bench, which given that he spent the end of last season playing alongside a player familiar with the City bench in Scott Sinclair, is a puzzling move.
5. Offloaded a disloyal player
Look, this has been written from an objective point of view, but, just like every other contributor to this site, I am an Aston Villa fan first and foremost. And given that over the years, we have seen a number of our players going on to bigger teams, we have come to terms with the fact that the better Aston Villa players won't stay at the club for ever. That's why everyone on this site have been pretty rational when talking about Christian Benteke's upcoming departure.
The manner in which Fabian Delph has left however, makes this the exception.
In terms of summing up the general feeling towards Delph, Thomas Jones has done it far better than I ever could here. It's not the fact that Fabian Delph has left that hurts, but the fact that less than a week before he left, he said:
"I'm aware there has been intense media speculation surrounding my future in the last 24 hours and I want to set the record straight. I'm not leaving. I'm staying at the football club and can't wait for the start of the season and captaining this great football club."
It just shows that Fabian Delph does not care about Aston Villa, or the fans. But, if Delph leaving means that we replace him with a player that cares, or even a player that doesn't pretend to care like Delph did, then good riddance I say.
I'm not on board with the fans wishing an injury on Delph, but I'm not going to wish him all the best going forward either. I have respect for Christian Benteke, and I wish him well at his new club, just as I wished Stewart Downing, Ashley Young and Gareth Barry luck. But they didn't go back on their word. Fabian Delph did.