So, a central defender has appeared at Villa Park! It’s hard to argue that this squad doesn’t need significant overhaul, so getting started with business so quickly after the takeover was confirmed is a good sign for Aston Villa.
We’ll start with this: I think Tommy Elphick is a fantastic signing. He’s a strong leader — I haven’t seen anyone at Bournemouth say a negative word about the guy — and can honestly walk in and wear the armband for the club’s first fixture in a handful of weeks. He instantly becomes a first-team regular for this season, which is good, and should help steady a backline that desperately needs that. If Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker all stick around, they should be good candidates to pair with Elphick, unless the club go out and buy another centre back to trot out there.
Generally speaking, this Villa team needs players who tick two boxes: talent and character. We’ve seen that at this level, Elphick fills the former, while the testimonies from the South Coast indicate he does the latter. That’s awesome, and it shows that the club are off to a strong start this summer.
But at the end of the day, it’s step one of… oh, what should be about 20. Hitting double digits in both arrivals and departures is probably a bit of a pipe dream, but it’s hard to make the case it isn’t deserved. There are guys in this setup — Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards, Leandro Bacuna and Gabby Agbonlahor come to mind immediately — that you get rid of at any cost. If someone asked to take one of them for free, I’d be in favour of letting them.
Then there’s guys in this team that could easily go without most being too upset. From Carles Gil to Ashley Westwood or Alan Hutton to Libor Kozák, these are players who’ll likely help if they’re around, but also ones that are nothing special.
Villa’s problem right now is likely shown pretty well by answering this question: Which players are “untouchable”? Excluding your young guys who’ve barely cracked the first-team squad, I have one name: Jack Grealish.
If your answer’s anything similar to mine, that’s a big issue. I love Jordan Amavi, and in good health, he’d be the second name on that short list, but aside from that, I don’t feel poorly about my answer to that question. Littered throughout our squad is questions about character — to which Grealish isn’t immune, mind you — and talent and, well, price (hi, Adama Traoré’s wages!).
And that’s why Elphick is such a great start. Sure, he’s not a world-class player — there’s a reason he was deemed surplus to requirements at Bournemouth — but he’s the type of guy you have success with at any level; even if he didn’t see the pitch much, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a Cherries supporter who’d argue he didn’t have an impact on their season.
So, I suppose I’m going to modify my answer to the “untouchable” question and add Tommy Elphick as a second name on that list. Not just because he’s a recent signing, but because he’s just what the club need to get back into the top flight.
Here’s to more good business, Robbie.