Crisis - Noun - ‘A time when a difficult or important decision must be made’
That’s a really good way of defining Villa’s next few weeks. A crisis. Over the next month or so, Villa will have to make a number of incredibly important decisions in the summer transfer window. There’s no other way to define it.
However, a crisis isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Villa’s crisis - involving the vast amount of crucial judgments that the club must make when deciding on which players to buy and sell - really is the best type of crisis. It’s a fun crisis. It’s an almost enjoyable crisis. The speculation is amazing. Right now, we’re not deciding how Villa can escape bankruptcy, or avoid FFP or create a winning team out of six pounds - we’re deciding how best to spend a lot of money to make a real team.
But it’s still a crisis and while there could be a ‘negative ending’ to Villa’s current ‘crisis’ - say Villa get relegated - it won’t be an apocalyptic result like the other crises that our club has faced in the last 12 months; and there’s been a few.
So, even though the negative outcome isn’t really that bad, it’s still a squad-churn crisis that involves a number of important and stressful decisions. If you think about it and the current make-up of the squad (ignoring the loan players who have left), there’s probably a handful of squad positions and roles that are sealed. We have at least one starting centre-back in James Chester (if he can handle a full season, which could be doubtful) and three starting midfielders in Jack Grealish, Conor Hourihane and John McGinn. Frederic Guilbert will claim right-back. That’s it. As of writing now, that’s all she wrote. That’s half the defence, and a full midfield three. Five players.
Now, we’re ignoring Birkir Bjarnason, Jonathan Kodjia, Henri Lansbury, James Bree, Neil Taylor, Ahmed Elmohamady and a host of other characters - but it stands to reason that a large number of these players could be moved on. It’s an incredibly difficult situation - who do you sell, and who do you keep? Can you actually afford to sell more than half of these players? Is tearing apart that dressing room for the sake of it a good idea? Do Villa actually need to sell anyone?
While it’s incredibly likely that Villa will sign Anwar El Ghazi to start on the wing, there’s an opposite side to fill. While Villa will probably sign Tyrone Mings, another centre-half will be needed. We’ll also need a new right-winger and a striker - just to compete. Then we need to think about depth - and that’s where the players like Kodjia come in. Do you sell these players just to buy replacements to fill up the team? What about defensive midfield? Because it’s just Conor Hourihane there and he didn’t start off in that position. We’ll need to invest there.
What about the players that Villa aren’t certain about? The goalkeeping position has three starters, and while Jed Steer has claimed it with some incredible performances in big games, there’s a whole season of Premier League football waiting. Will Villa make a judgement to bring in the guy to man the posts? A marquee signing to seal the position for years? Or will they show faith in Steer? Or will they rotate between not one, or two, but three starting goalkeepers.
When you jot it up, even with the deals that we assume to be done, there’s an enormous amount of change that has to take place at Aston Villa right now. These decisions won’t come cheap, and they won’t always be easy. Truly, it’s a crisis.
A crisis, like I said, but the best kind of crisis. All of these decisions will be made with the best intentions for the right reason based on a positive achievement for the football club.