We did it, everyone. We survived the summer transfer window. The months of spurious rumours, the long hours of Deadline Day, and of course the almost complete overhaul of our favorite team in the world.
So, what did everyone think of Tim Sherwood's first go at a transfer window? We've weighed in below, and once you see what we have to say vote for your grade and let us know why you chose it in the comments!
It's been eventful to say the least! Overall I am very pleased with the outcome. If it wasn't already clear, the FA Cup final demonstrated the need for a clean slate. Mentally that squad was just completely shot. Adding a couple of squad boosters while clinging on to Benteke and Delph wasn't going to cut it. We needed major surgery rather than a patch job.
We've invested in a lot of talent. The likes of Amavi and Traore are genuinely exciting prospects that will try to use Villa as a springboard to the top of the game. Lescott Richards and Sinclair bring leadership and proven Premier League class. We no longer have issues with depth in defence or midfield. There are a couple of positions that still concern me, I would have liked a more proven striker and a specialist right back (will Ilori play there?) but you'll always want more and there is always January!
With vast improvements behind the scenes and new longer contracts protecting the value of the squad, I'm feeling overwhelmingly positive about our future.
Considering some of the dire predictions about Sherwood's first ever transfer window in charge, I should be deliriously happy. We shifted out a lot of deadwood and made some great acquisitions - Jordan Amavi, Idrissa Gana, Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott and Adama Traoré are all improvements in positions that needed reinforcement. Also, Scott Sinclair could turn out to be our best bargain of the summer if he continues scoring goals; if he gets double-figures for £2.5 million, that'll be amazing.
So why do I have still misgivings? Well, two related issues, our strikers and Sherwood's attitude towards the transfers that weren't made by him. We bought Jordan Ayew and Rudy Gestede and it feels very much like Ayew was a scouting/management buy, while Gestede was who Sherwood really wanted. A lot of people who know about French football seem to think we overpaid on Ayew and Gestede so far looks good in the air, lacking elsewhere. So both are possibly shaky and my worry is that Sherwood will be unwilling to give Ayew or Kozak a chance to prove themselves and will persist with Gestede and Gabby.
A small note as well is that our net spend was somewhere around the £6 - 9 million mark depending the figures you believe. That's lower than every other team who were in the bottom half last season and I'm not sure that's a good thing. Take another £10 million and the money we spent on Ayew or Gestede and we could have bought a £15-£20 million striker who Sherwood would trust more.
So those are my issues, but overall for a whole squad overhaul this was pretty darn good. We got the cake, we're just missing the cherry on top.
It's a funny one. If we base the judgement on the window on our incoming striking options, I'd be more unsure - Gestede and Ayew will take a while to settle in and Sinclair and Traore were not purchased to score goals, but to provide them. Tim being Tim, it looks like our goals this year will be coming from the wings and that almost seems accidental.
However, the inspired signings of Amavi, Micah Richards and Idrissa Gana are already reaping dividends for Villa as they've come into the squad without any problems and look like they've been here for years. Villa look better in the middle of the park then they ever have and that's largely down to Gana replacing the Delph sized hole in the midfield.
Before the season started, I felt like we had played an amazing hand and run away with some star buys, but after seeing the play so far of our new recruits, it may be a case of enduring until December to bed a few of them, namely Ayew, Gestede and Veretout, into the squad.
All in all it's a mixed bag. Unfortunately I can't see into the future and base the window on potential, but Villa did lose two amazing players in the summer and have made a massive stride towards replacing at least one of those.
While I really like some of the signings Tim Sherwood made in his first transfer window as a manager, it still irks me a little bit that Villa's net spend this transfer window remained one of the lowest in the Premier League. I get some of the reasons for why it happened, but for a club the size of Villa to be out-spent so heavily by the likes of West Brom and Watford, it just annoys me. Sure, signing as many players as Villa did means the wage bill of the entire squad was significantly affected; however, Villa also dropped some pretty high earners in Darren Bent, Shay Given, Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke, so I don't think the wage bill inflated so much to the point where Villa could only spend a few million pounds on net transfer fees in such a crucial window. This window was better than the Paul Lambert windows of signing loads of players for £2-5 million, but it still needed a quality £15-20 million signing to satisfy the greedy fan in me jealous of seeing Newcastle drop £15 million on a midfielder and West Brom throw £12 million at a striker.
With that said, given the net spend, I think Sherwood did just about as well as he could have. He literally signed a new player at EVERY position. Adama Traore and Jordan Amavi look the real deal already. Idrissa Gana Gueye, Scott Sinclair and Micah Richards are all good Premier League players. Jordan Veretout and Jordan Ayew both have high potential. Rudy Gestede might be a bit one-dimensional but still adds something to the squad. And nabbing Joleon Lescott right at the end could help as well. I don't blame Sherwood for not being able to sign proven Premier League quality like Charlie Austin or Andros Townsend, which would've made this window lights out for Villa.
For those reasons, I'm giving Randy Lerner a C and Tim Sherwood a B+, bringing my total grade for this Aston Villa transfer window to a typically Villa level of mediocrity.
On the whole, I'd argue that it was a successful summer for Villa. It has the potential to have been a successful summer at least. Plenty of players left, and with the exception of Matt Lowton and Andi Weimann, I can't argue a case that any of them should have been kept. Lowton is probably better than Hutton at RB, and I think a loan for Andi would have been better than selling him. Otherwise, getting rid of deadwood like Tonev, Sylla and Stevens was good business.
As for the incoming transfers, we saw an interesting mix of experience and potential. It was importance for Villa to strike a good balance here, because as good as Jordan Amavi, Idrissa Gana and Jordan Ayew are, the addition of Premier League veterans in Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards will help mould the new signings into a team, rather than a collection of players. Jordan Amavi and Idrissa Gana already look to be great signings, whilst Scott Sinclair has started showing the form that prompted Manchester City to sign him from Swansea a couple of seasons ago.
Jordan Ayew and Adama Traore are two that I think will become stars for Villa, but maybe not quite as quick as people will be expecting. Ayew in particular came in for a lot of money, so high expectation was inevitable. I think that he is something of a confidence player, so if and when he finds it, he'll start finding the net just as regularly as his brother at Swansea. There are just two signings that I am hesitant about, and those are Jordan Veretout and Rudy Gestede. I'm reserving judgement on Veretout because he hasn't featured much, but his attitude against Manchester United wasn't great. With Gestede, I think that Villa are trying the same tactics that they used with Christian Benteke, but with limited success as Gestede isn't as technically good as Benteke. Personally, I'd play him beside Ayew or Sinclair, but never as a target man on his own, because I don't think his hold up play is up to scratch.
So, to sum up, I'm mostly pleased with both the additions and departures, but a couple of question marks remain.
Before the season started, this looked like an A+ window, but early results have tempered my enthusiasm. Now I worry about Amavi finishing out games, our new strikers finding form, the players finding a rhythm together, Guzan not having anyone to push him for the starting spot, and if Sherwood will figure out how to effectively manage all of our midfielders.
That said, a few of the imports look to on their way to stardom already. Any time I wanted to think negatively about the overall dealings, I remembered signing a clone of our best player from last year in Gana, Sinclair nearly equalling Gabby Agbonlahor’s goal total from last year in just five days, and Adama stealing the lunch money of everyone who dares to try to defend him.
The team did well to get full available value from Benteke and Delph, and while I would have preferred to see a big name come as a replacement up top, it’s almost impossible to argue the team isn’t better than they were last year. As the back line solidifies, the strikers find the net and a preferred starting 11 emerges and gels, this window will continue looking better. I still have lingering doubts, but things are undoubtedly looking up.
Coming into the transfer window, I was worried about what Tim Sherwood's strategy was going to be. I had a deep fear in my mind that it was going to him signing English football retreads who were "top, top lads". That turned out to be very much not the case. The club going out and signing young, talented players from around the continent (and not the cut rate Antionio Luna model of that player type) proved me very wrong and I am happy with that.
I still would like to have seen a Charlie Austin brought in. Scott Sinclair's recent form has gotten me hopeful that he can play a bigger role up front. Hopefully the lack of purchase of a striker won't be as costly as it otherwise might've been.
Overall, I'm happy. I still have questions about Sherwood as a manger, but his transfer business was pretty good. This squad still has problems, but as a Villa fan, I am nothing if not an optimistic idiot. I think we've been enough to be fine.
Just like everyone else in the football world, I had no idea what to expect from Tim Sherwood coming into the summer. His inexperience with transfers combined with the unsettled financial situation of the club meant that I was pretty trepidatious about what Villa would look like at the beginning of September.
And by and large, I think my worries were shown to be overblown. Randy Lerner did not make a huge amount of money available (or if he did, Sherwood didn't spend it), but thanks to the sales of Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph, Villa were able to have what seemed like their highest-spending window in years.
And yes, there are a few projects in the incoming names. Jordan Veretout and Jordan Ayew are examples that stand out as player who could help now but who are probably better in the future. But then there are players like Jordan Amavi and Idrissa Gana. Players who are of legitimately high quality and who look as if they could be stars.
Overall, even, despite the losses of big-name players, it feels as if Villa have upgraded the team as a whole. That's precisely what you want to see. Had a few other needs been addressed (a right-sided Amavi counterpart, a proven striker as opposed to gambles), this would have been an easy A. As it is, I'll go just below that.