Tim Sherwood entered this summer as a manager who had never weathered a transfer window. With three months to remake Aston Villa in his own image, he managed to erase most doubts about his acumen in player acquisition and he did so in a shrewd, intelligent manner.
Perhaps the most startling part of Aston Villa's summer transfers is the way that those transfers have absolutely changed this team. That's hardly surprising given the fact that thirteen players were brought in via loan or purchase and nineteen departed. But it becomes shockingly apparent when you look at a couple of possibilities for what this club can do now.
Before we do that, let's take a look at what Aston Villa looked like last season. This, according to WhoScored, represents Aston Villa's most-used players and formation last season:
You'll notice that, from those eleven players, five are gone and three have been rarely used this season. That means three players are holdouts from last season to this. We can compare this to a couple of different things to get a sense of just how drastic the change at Villa Park is.
The first is what I've taken to calling the All-Summer XI. Using only players purchased this summer, Aston Villa could put out this lineup against Leicester City after the international break:
Is that the best possible lineup? No. But it's a lineup that could definitely give this team a fighting chance in the Premier League this season. They'd be likely to finish somewhere around 17th again, and very well might even drop. But it's not a team that I would guarantee relegation to. And on the bench of that team, you'd have Tiago Ilori and new keeper Matija Sarkic.
If we want to be a bit more realistic, here's a look at what Aston Villa might actually line up like against Leicester City.
On that team precisely two of the players were in the most-used XI from 2014-15.You could bring that number up a bit if Clark and Hutton were played instead of Lescott and Bacuna, but you're still looking at a >50% turnover.
To make the change even more drastic, compare the above proposed squad to the one that Tim Sherwood ran out against Everton on May 2, a team that didn't have too many significant injury issues and is thus fairly indicative of what Sherwood's ideal was at the end of last season. I've gone ahead and X'd out players who wouldn't be expected to start for Villa right now:
Three lone players left. And despite losing Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke, it is difficult to dispute the idea that this team is better now than they were just four months ago. There are potential problems with this squad right now, that much is undeniable. Goal scoring looks to be an issue (though one that may be easily corrected when Grealish/Gil and Adama are healthy) and the team still need time to become cohesive. But despite not finding anyone of the caliber of Benteke, Villa managed to pursue a balanced upgrade of almost the entire squad.
What makes this even more impressive is the fact that Villa did so while spending fewer than £10 million total. The sales of Benteke and Delph managed to fund a summer that almost entirely overhauled the team.
It's yet to be seen if Tim Sherwood will use the players that he bought properly, but by almost any measure his first-ever transfer window was a massive success. Now let's put all of these new toys to work and get to mid-table!