Everything tells me this is an unpopular opinion. But that hasn’t stopped me in the past.
Given Aston Villa’s current situation as a football club, sitting idle in the January transfer window wasn’t a bad move at all. And further, while so many will lambast the board for not spending big, or at all over the last month, they made the right decision to not drop a lot of dough and put the club in a precarious situation headed into the Championship.
First things first: The notion that Garde "deserved" to be backed last month. Just no. Look, at the end of the day, Rémi Garde has won one league match in charge of Aston Villa. The Claret and Blues just got off their best three-match stretch of the year, where they closed the gap to 17th from 11 to 10 points.
At the end of the day, that’s not going to be good enough.
If Garde wanted backed, we could simply think back to that four-match stretch at the festive period where Villa played Newcastle United, Norwich City and Sunderland. Villa got one point from those three away fixtures — and when the home one against West Ham only netted a single point, it forced Villa into the position it is now.
Say Villa got a win at Newcastle and Sunderland and managed a draw at Norwich; they’d be sitting on 19 points right now — in 18th place — just three points behind the Canaries in 17th. That’s effectively the position both the Black Cats and Magpies find themselves in, and why they were able to confidently spend in the transfer window.
Like Villa were a few years back, those two sides are in a dogfight they easily can win. It’s the situation that made Darren Bent’s signing wise and kept the big signings of this window from being terrible ideas.
But of course Villa aren’t there. They’re a side that’s won twice in 23 matches that suddenly needs to win no fewer than seven of its remaining 15 matches to have a legitimate chance at survival.
Any one signing, be it a striker or a goalkeeper or whatever, was never going to make that difference for Aston Villa.
I mean, think. At this point, Villa would likely have to play at no worse than a top-six pace the rest of the way to survive in May.
Who on this squad is capable of being in a side that good? Jordan Ayew and… uhh… yeah, I need some help guys.
If Villa wanted to put down a squad that significantly increased their chances of staying up this year, they’d have had to throw upwards of £50 million down in the transfer window — and it still wouldn’t have been a guaranteed thing.
If you care about the future of this football club, like the board actually do, you should be able to step back and see that would’ve been a really bad idea. Believe it or not, this club is in a good position financially to come back up when it goes down; there’s no reason to botch that for a 1-in-100 chance and seriously risk "doing a Leeds" or worse, "doing a Portsmouth."
And to those who say Villa should’ve brought in a signing because the "fans deserved one" or whatever, I’ve got a couple responses for that:
First, you deserve nothing. Acting like this is some travesty that you’ve been wronged by is annoying, childish and a big reason why the rest of England ain’t going to be too upset when Villa go down. Believe it or not, Villa aren’t one of the class of clubs that’s never getting relegated; every once in a while, the club drops down and that’s fine and part of the natural cycle.
How Villa responds to that relegation is the key. When the club won promotion from the Second Division in 1975, it took them six years to become champions of England and seven to become champions of Europe. When Villa went down a few years later, they recorded second-place finishes just two and five years after suffering relegation.
While the world of English football is drastically different today — Villa aren’t sniffing another second-place finish in at least a generation — it doesn’t mean the club can’t come back up stronger than it was before, just as it did in the 15-20 years that preceded the Premier League.
Secondly, and similar to the last answer, there’s no reason to bring in a signing for the sake of signing someone. This ignores the fact Villa had a goalkeeper signed and a striker Garde was convinced was coming, but regardless, there was never going to be a great point to making any one signing. If it was a permanent player, I’d rather get him in during the summer, when we can build a positive platform forward, and if it was a loan player, I’d rather throw a bone to one of the academy players to get five or 10 outings before the season’s done.
And thirdly, football is a business. If you knew you were almost certainly getting sacked from your job in May, you wouldn’t go out and buy a new, really nice house today just because you still have the income. No, you’d be wise to prepare for life on a smaller cheque. Villa should be doing the same.
Figure out what you have right now. Who’s willing to put on for the Villa and who’s just out there to collect their pay each week and move on with their lives.
That should be the explicit goal at this point; not survival.
Ultimately, the winter strategy backed that.