Rudy Gestede is out. So, too, is Libor Kozak. There are rumblings that Ross McCormack might be being bandied about, but who even knows. Meanwhile, a large chunk of Aston Villa are about to head to Africa for AFCON. Alan Hutton continues to regularly play right back for a team looking to be a part of the playoff hunt. And Pierluigi Gollini has been benched in favor of Mark Bunn because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
This is Aston Villa as they stand on 4 January 2017. They are a club who are, without question, improved from the start of the season. They are a club who are improved from last season! They have made some smart moves in the past few months, and the foundation is being laid upon which future success can be built. They are also a club who just traveled to ever-loving Cardiff and lost in embarrassing fashion.
And Aston Villa are a club who, seemingly, have no plan for what they want in the winter transfer window. Why sell strikers when goals are at a premium? Are we seriously expecting Gabby Agbonlahor to start finding the back of the net? Why bench your starting keeper for Mark Bunn? Neither are great, to be quite frank, but in a world of equals, why not go with the younger player who has a chance to develop?
This isn’t about crisis at Aston Villa. The club isn’t getting relegated this year, and the January window won’t kill us. But given the expectations set by Tony Xia when he bought the club, this lack of direction does represent a step back.
Roberto Di Matteo was sacked for not providing results, and Steve Bruce has replaced him and done a largely admirable job. At this point, however, this is a club who look set to tread water and finish right around 10th. If that’s the goal, fine. We’ll still have enjoyable matches and it will be loads better than watching last year.
But if that’s not the goal — if promotion playoffs are actually what this club wants — direction is needed. Yes, it’s early in this window and plenty can happen. As of right now, though, the message being sent to fans is that whoever was in charge of the rudder has gone to take a smoke break. If Xia and Bruce are serious about turning this club around right now, they need to give it direction right now. Make known our desires, make known what we want are willing to part with, and make known the plan going forward.
And if we are okay with the club as it is and want to take the rest of the season to breathe and re-group for next year, let us know that, too. It’s okay to take two seasons to challenge for promotion. It is not okay, however, to promise a push now and appear this listless. We saw what a poorly-planned January can do to a club last year. Let’s not let it happen twice in a row.