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Grading every signing and sale in Aston Villa’s 2023 summer transfer window

Did Unai Emery, Monchi, and Villa nail the transfer window? We grade every single first-team deal.

Newcastle United v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Aston Villa’s transfer policy has come a long way from the scattergun and often impulsive approach of old. Unai Emery, Monchi, and co. executed a targeted plan with both the club’s signings and sales this summer.

But just how good were those deals? Here, I’ve attempted to grade every single move Villa made this summer.


Youri Tielemans (Fee: Free)

Tielemans, and frankly everyone at Leicester City had a rough 2022-23 season. The Foxes let his contract expire and Tielemans would likely have had many suitors if Villa didn’t swoop in for him at the beginning of the window. A versatile, established player, he should see more of the field as this season progresses even if he is currently a little annoyed that he’s not getting a ton of minutes. Recency bias says this should maybe be a lower grade, but this was a great signing out of the gate this summer on a free.

Grade: A-

Pau Torres from Villarreal (Reported fee: €33m)

Villa’s second signing was the one that showed the type of pull that Unai Emery has in the market. Torres is a modern, ball-playing centre-back and were he at a bigger club than Villareal he would have a much higher profile. Luckily for Villa, he was loyal to Emery and chose to come to the Midlands. There may be some grumbling after his first half against Liverpool, but I believe once Villa have their full complement of players including Alex Moreno and Jacob Ramsey on the left side with him, he’s going to be massive.

Grade: A+

Moussa Diaby from Bayer Leverkusen (Reported fee: €55m)

Villa had to fight off (fake) Saudi Pro League interest which Leverkusen used to inflate the fee, but Villa got their man. The club record signing has already dazzled on several occasions and looks to be a threat to score every time he has the ball. Admittedly, I was a bit put off by the cost and the pressure he would be under if he didn’t immediately start producing, but he’s been an absolute nightmare for opposing teams. Long may it continue.

Grade: A+

Nicolò Zaniolo from Galatasaray (Loan with option to buy)

With Emi Buendia out for the season and Ramsey still recovering from injury, Villa secured some attacking depth by signing the once-promising but oft-injured Zaniolo on a loan. He’s certainly got goals in his left boot, but once Ramsey is back up in running and Villa have their ideal diamond of Watkins-McGinn-Ramsey-Diaby, will he see the pitch very much? I think he could be key for squad rotation and knows his way around the Europa Conference League. Let’s hope his right knee holds up as he’s had two tears in recent years which have set his career back.

Burnley FC v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Grade: B+

Clément Lenglet via Barcelona (Loan)

Xavi never really seemed to want Lenglet around since he became Barcelona coach. He loaned Lenglet out to Spurs last season where he logged over 2,500 minutes and Barca were happy to find another team to cover his large wages for this season. With the way our centre-backs have been dropping, Villa will need Lenglet to be reliable. Thankfully, unlike Zaniolo, he has no injury history. The lefty is a capable and dependable professional who can come in and give Torres a breather and perhaps provide a little more defensively than the Spaniard. I think he could prove invaluable.

Grade: B+


Cameron Archer to Sheffield United (Reported fee: €21.55m with a buy-back clause)

This may just be the most divisive player sale since Grealish to Man City. Archer looked great the past two seasons in Championship loan spells at Preston and Middlesbrough (18 goals and seven assists in 40 games) and was a factor in helping England become U-21 Euros champions. A somewhat lacklustre preseason tour in the USA and Emery’s preference for Jhon Duran off the bench as the backup to Ollie Watkins at the beginning of the season pushed Archer towards the door. Villa secured a big fee for a player who had (at the time) never scored in the Premier League, before he scored in his first game for the Blades and forced another goal with his shot off the post. Many Villa fans will be rooting for Sheffield United’s relegation to get Archer back to B6 while others will be happy to have secured that large price tag (pure FFP profit). I’m worried that even if he does come back to the club, the relationship may be too soured to save after Emery’s lack of faith. Regardless of the fate of Sheffield United, I hope he smashes it.

Grade: C

Sheffield United v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Jaden Philogene to Hull City (Reported fee: €5.8m with buy-back clause)

Unlike Archer, Philogene did have a great preseason tour. With Ramsey set to miss time and Leon Bailey’s inconsistent form, I thought there was a path to Philogene breaking into the regular squad rotation on the wings. During the time after the tour, perhaps he didn’t maintain his levels in training, because he never got close to the pitch at the beginning of the season. He was decent in his loan spell at Cardiff City last season (four goals and an assist) and possesses great individual skill. He’s young (21), explosive, and needs minutes which he is not going to get at Aston Villa this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in claret and blue if he raises his levels in the Championship.

Grade: B-

Phillipe Coutinho to Al-Duhail SC (Loan)

Coutinho’s chances of contributing to Aston Villa’s season evaporated after 24 minutes against Everton. The electric start to his Villa career with the goal against Manchester United and the wizardry he displayed in the 3-3 home draw to Leeds all seem like a distant memory, another lifetime. Since then, it’s been setback after setback broken up by lackadaisical performances and general nonchalance. He was a luxury buy under Steven Gerrard and makes way too much money for a 31-year-old who hardly sees the pitch. He was a star at Liverpool, of that there is no doubt, but at Villa he’s been a husk of himself. Only a Qatari or Saudi club would be willing to pay these wages to sell some jerseys, so Villa jumped at the chance to offload him. He still has two years on his Villa contract after this season and the best scenario is that he plays well enough in Qatar for Villa to negotiate a fee for a permanent move.

Grade: A-

Ashley Young (contract not renewed)

Without Ashley Young, Villa would not be playing European football this season. That’s not hyperbole. The 38-year-old rolled back the clock last season after Matty Cash went down with an injury and contributed 2,000 minutes at both fullback positions. I am not alone in thinking that he earned himself a one-year deal and a last pop in Europe with Villa this season, especially knowing that Moreno was going to be out for a while. Unfortunately, the club didn’t see it that way and elected to move on. I think that decision already looks questionable. Even if he never saw anything other than an odd cameo this season, I think it would have been worth it to keep him on for what he offers in terms of mentorship. With Mings out injured and Young gone, the defensive leadership that helped Villa navigate last season is gone and left a vacuum that must be filled by other players. He could have been had for pennies. Ah well. At least he was nice enough to assist Duran on his first goal while playing for Everton. Legend.

Grade: D

Aston Villa v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Marvelous Nakamba to Luton Town (Reported fee: €2.9m)

Nakamba may have been the only player to play his best football under Gerrard at Aston Villa. Then he got hurt. He never worked his way back into the team and was loaned out mid-season to Luton last year. He helped the Hatters to their first promotion to the Premier League and the club wanted him back as a key cog for this campaign. He’s played every minute for them so far in the league this season and seems to have clicked there. He was always solid defensively for Villa but never offered anything going forward; amongst midfielders over the last year, he’s in the 98th percentile for tackles and 13th percentile for passes completed but the worst in progressive (forward) passes received at 0.32/game. That €12m Villa paid Club Brugge is not so great in retrospect. Villa will be happy to have recouped something.

Grade: B

Keinan Davis to Udinese (Reported fee: €2.3m)

Davis joined the Villa U18 side on a free transfer in December 2015 from Biggleswade Town, which must be one of the best team names in all of England. He was mostly a bit-part player at Villa under Dean Smith, who, it must be said, gave the young striker all the opportunity in the world to make it at Aston Villa. It just never really clicked. He was loaned out in consecutive seasons to Forest during their promotion run and then to Watford. He had 12 goals in 56 games and never garnered any serious consideration to re-join Villa. We can always appreciate him poaching his only Premier League goal to salvage a draw against West Brom in the 2020-21 season, but it was time to move on. Ciao, Keinan.

Grade: B

Morgan Sanson to OGC Nice (Loan)

If there’s anything Villa have the luxury of at the minute, it’s quality midfielders. Once Tielemans was brought in, Sanson never really stood a chance. Purchased for €15.8m from Marseille during the January transfer window of 2021, it was hoped he would feature alongside Douglas Luiz in the midfield. A combination of injuries and inability to adjust to the Premier League doomed his chances and now another former Marseille player, Boubacar Kamara, stands where Sanson was supposed to be. His time at Villa is mostly a ‘what if?’ and consecutive loans to Ligue 1 are a countdown to contract expiration. It’s good that another club will be paying his salary this season. Au revoir.

Grade: B

Wesley to Stoke City (Reported fee: €3.2m)

Ben Mee’s scissor tackle against Wesley remains one of the most disgusting things I have seen a Premier League player do to another player. I can’t bear to watch it back, but it was something from a Vinnie Jones highlight reel. At the time, Wesley had just turned 22 years old and was the most expensive signing in Aston Villa history at €25m. Seems incredible now. The tackle ruptured his cruciate ligament and effectively ended his time as a regular first-team Villa player. Wesley cuts an imposing figure at 6’3” and 210 lbs, but I always looked like he was a baby giraffe learning to use his legs for the first time. He had a loan spell back at Brugge, then in Brazil, and finally last season in the Spanish second division, and struggled during all three assignments. During his comeback bid, I remember his straight red card for headbutting (now somewhat ironically) a Stoke player during the 2021-22 preseason. Clearly, that aggression had Stoke’s owners feeling like he was up for their infamous rainy night games. I think Villa were keen to see this strange saga end. All the best to big Wes.

Grade: B+

Viljami Sinisalo to Exeter City (Loan)

Villa have too many keepers and Sinisalo was the odd man out. The Finn was loaned out to League One side Exeter City where he has been their primary keeper. He’s been in great form thus far surrendering only seven goals in nine games (with four shutouts) and winning a penalty shoot-out. He’s only 21 years old and this is a good place for him to be. I think he has the potential to work his way up to Villa’s number two in a few years or be sold on at a good profit.

Grade: B+

Jed Steer (contract not renewed) Saved the best for last. Steer is a Villa cult hero. He spent 10 years at the club and was one of only three remaining players from the side that won the 2019 Championship playoff final, the others being Tyrone Mings and John McGinn. Steer was in competition with Tom Heaton for the starting job on Villa’s return to the Premier League. He ended up as the secondary choice and seven minutes into his first league start against Wolves in match week 12, he tore his calf. He sat on the bench in the 2020-21 season and was loaned to Luton for the 2021-22 season, but Achilles tendon issues forced him out again. We won’t remember that, however. What we will remember is his stone-faced stare-down of Mason Holgate, his right hand of steel pushing Hegazi’s penalty wide of the post and getting Villa back where we belong. He’s currently unsigned but at the ripe young age of 30, there should be an opportunity for him somewhere. Classy move by Villa to keep him until his contract ran out.

Grade: A+