There may be a fair amount of season left for the boys from Aston, but it is as good a time as any to look forward and see how Villa will kick on after this season – whether they manage to secure a European place or not.
Look to see Dean Smith and company undertake a similar philosophy in the transfer market as they did last summer; bringing in a few real quality players to help bolster either another European push or even to help survive a packed European fixture list.
The obvious question and topic for debate for many Villa fans is what to do about Ross Barkley, who since coming back from injury has not been able to recapture the form seen at earlier games in the season. Even if he does manage to get back to that level of play, I don’t believe that the rumored asking price of £40 million is anywhere near worth it.
Villa have played their best this season with a quick, marauding midfield, who aren’t afraid to run and make tackles – something that Barkley doesn’t have in his game. A measly three tackles and a 33% tackle success rate means he looks like a passenger a lot of the time, which is something that the Villa can’t afford in a side going forward.
With Morgan Sanson being signed over the January transfer window, I don’t see a midfielder being top priority, especially with Dean Smith’s willingness to start Jacob Ramsey in the midfield and Marvelous Nakamba’s consistent performances.
When Jack Grealish comes back from injury I would like to see him playing centrally, where both Ramsey and Barkley have had turns playing, to allow him to dictate from the middle and permit Anwar El Ghazi to carry on his run of good performances.
With this in mind, I think the area of biggest need for the Villans is on the left wing. Both Trezeguet and El Ghazi have done well when they have been brought into the team, but an elite pacey winger would really help elevate the side.
Judging by the table and Fulham’s recent run of form, it looks like Newcastle could very easily be drawn into a scrap to survive and in this case Lange and the backroom staff should definitely be keeping a close eye on Allan Saint-Maximin.
His contract extension signed at the start of the season worth upwards of £36,000 a week make it a difficult move to make if Newcastle do manage to stay up, however, if they do drop, there very much could be a deal to make. If a deal was possible then he would bring a well-needed dose of pace and flair to a side that can look one-dimensional at times.
The other option is to play Ollie Watkins out on the wing, where he played at Brentford during his first two seasons there before making the transition to striker after the club sold Neil Maupay.
There are a contingent of Villa fans who are yet to be convinced that Watkins is a number nine and even for those who like the prospect of having his work rate and aerial ability working with another goal scorer, the opportunity to have passages of play dictated by Jack Grealish in the center is a very attractive one.
Celtic forward, Odsonne Edouard, was linked heavily with Aston Villa in the summer before Watkins was brought in and those rumors have started up again. Numerous Premier League clubs, including fellow Midlands outfit, Leicester City, have been rumored to be interested in the Frenchman and it would give Dean Smith good depth up top.
With only Keinan Davis currently backing up Ollie Watkins and with the club still waiting to see how Wesley performs on his return from his lengthy injury, depth at striker is a definite area to strengthen.
Another player who Villa have been linked with heavily in the past and could still fit in and provide some more creativity is Werder Bremen’s Milot Rashica. Werder Bremen have had another underwhelming season in the Bundesliga and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Kosovan tried to broker another move to leave in the summer.
Rashica is a versatile player, being able to play through the middle as an attacking midfielder and also out wide on either wing. He has also made 17 appearances at striker for Werder Bremen, allowing him to provide needed backup as highlighted earlier.
His creativity and desire to be on the ball could help Grealish by providing another outlet and help stretch opponents to allow players like Bertrand Traore and Ollie Watkins more space to operate.
At moment in time, this is all speculation and is truly a real wish list for this writer. However, if Villa can sign a few key players that will have the same level of impact as last summer’s crop then the European dream would seem all but certain!