Finally, we’ve got him.
After what seemed like an eternity of speculation surrounding the fee, Bournemouth’s stubbornness in negotiations and reporters desperately tracking his whereabouts, relief came over the Villa Park faithful as Tyrone Mings was seen wearing the new Kappa jersey in Villa’s announcement video. It was the signing the entire fanbase craved. After his heroics in the second half of our promotion campaign last season, the board had little choice but to capture their man regardless of the price.
The pertinent question now is: who plays with him at the back? With only three senior centre-backs on the books, surely there’ll be at least one more walking through the door before the transfer window slams shut. Mings will be a starter every week if fit, of course. With Axel Tuanzebe extending his contract with Manchester United almost abolishing any further talk of a move back to Villa, that leaves room for one other player to fill in the current blank space. I’ll be exploring the names who could partner the new £20m man in Villa’s upcoming Premier League season.
The most obvious candidate would be Kortney Hause. Signed from Wolves for £3m after a successful loan spell last year, Hause has proved to be a reliable option. Things may not have started swimmingly though as he looked like a deer in the headlights coming off the bench at Wigan away back in January, but he quickly steadied himself and eventually started to command things. He even gave a good account of himself covering at left-back due to squad injuries. But it was at centre-half, with Axel Tuanzebe out injured, that Hause managed to form a formidable partnership with Tyrone Mings and keep Villa’s season alive. His composure allows him to pass the ball well and turn away from pressing attackers comfortably, not to mention the synchronised manner he and Mings took it in turns to drive on with the ball and turn the game up a gear. He’ll be a great asset this season whether he’s in the starting eleven or coming off the bench to consolidate.
I feel incredibly sorry for James Chester who, for the past three seasons, has been a wonderful servant to this club. When he plays, nobody leads quite as well as him. He’s not a giant of a defender but what he lacks in height, he makes up for in positional awareness and passion. He wore the captain’s armband until he picked up a long-term injury so incumbent Jack Grealish wouldn’t lift the playoff final trophy without him. Chester was one half of a formidable partnership at the back in the 2017/18 campaign, calming the nerves from the back and chipping in with some crucial goals along the way. Every penny of the £8m Villa paid West Brom those years ago has been fully repaid by the defensive stalwart. Fingers crossed that his niggles don’t linger and he’ll make a full recovery into the performer we once saw.
A new signing may well take that vacant spot, meaning Mings will have to somehow create a relationship in a short space of time. One name that’s been mentioned in the past couple of days has been Ahmed Hegazi. If you’ve ever played fantasy football, you’ll know that Hegazi is criminally underrated by many but is a more than decent player. The Egyptian international supposedly has a £10m release clause in his contract at West Brom making him an attractive prospect this transfer window. Having already lost Craig Dawson to Watford, the Albion will be desperate to keep hold of their man. He ranks near the top of the Championship for blocks, he’s very good in the air, composed on the ball and has enough top flight experience to instill confidence in the fans’ minds. In today’s inflated market, that sort of money doesn’t seem too bad for a 28-year old in his prime.
Adam Webster, Bristol City’s star man, was the subject of a bid from Villa last month. It was rejected, but it’s thought that we’re still keen on bringing him to Villa Park. The fee being mentioned in the media looks a mind-boggling amount for someone who is relatively unknown outside the upper echelons of English football. Reportedly, the Robins want £30m which should be enough to scare off any suitors. Nonetheless, he remains a target and Villa could do a lot worse. A defender who reads the game magnificently, timing his interceptions and bringing the ball out was crucial to Bristol City’s 8th place finish last season, narrowly missing out on the playoffs. Two seasons in the Championship with Ipswich prior to his move west, the 24-year old can certainly grow with time on his side.
That overhead kick versus Birmingham has been written into Villa folklore. Gary Cahill cemented his place as a fans’ favourite in that very moment. Emotionally, it would be fantastic to see him come back. After a glittering career at Chelsea, he’s finally ready to move on. He’s won everything there is to win in club football so is there still the motivation there for him to win more trophies? A tenuous link to Arsenal has been bandied around and they could certainly do a lot worse. I get the feeling Gunners fans won’t feel this to be an ambitious enough move for them so they may open the cheque-book. A move back to Villa would be, in my opinion, a massive coup for us as he’s a born leader with a lot still in the tank to offer. A free transfer is also attractive to pursue other options but he’d probably demand the highest wages of all the names mentioned. However, you know what you’re getting with Cahill. It’s not a risky move and could even be seen as the sensible one if you take finances out of the equation. There will be plenty of clubs sniffing around to try and lure him in.
There’s still plenty of time for us to consider which players suit us best and where we can get good value for money. No doubt that Christian Purslow and his scouts went straight back to work after the Mings announcement to find his defensive partner or perhaps a back-up. One thing you can say about Villa this summer is that we’ve not been messing about. Galvanising this group will be essential to start the season in the right manner but I’m sure Dean Smith and his team are up to the task. It would be ideal to have that centre-half in before the USA tour but, with that rapidly approaching, it’s going to have to happen in the next few days.