There can be no denying that Aston Villa are stacked in the middle of the park. With Jack Grealish alongside John McGinn, Glenn Whelan, Henri Lansbury, Mile Jedinak and Birkir Bjarnason - as well as younger options in Callum O’Hare and Jake Doyle Hayes to name but two - there’s barely room to breathe when considering Villa’s midfield pack.
However transfer rumours are heating up as we look towards the incoming Winter transfer window, and while the main focus is and should be the goalkeeping corps and defensive help, there is one rumour that isn’t going away and it is more than credible. The problem? It means that another midfielder may be on the way to Villa Park, creating quite a significant selection headache.
Romaine Sawyers, a favourite of Dean Smith at both Walsall and Brentford, has been linked with a move to Villa Park - and this is a move I am excited about for a number of reasons - and despite the fact that he’s not a goalkeeper or a left-back, it’s a move that should not be dismissed by Villa fans.
Interest in Sawyers would also herald that Villa are looking to export a few players - and it’s only right. There is a high wage bill at Villa, and once again the club need to look at rebuilding. Sawyers, at 27 years old, is no young talent, but would be cheaper - and better - than a number of players currently warming the bench for Villa. While he’d certainly keep an U23 player out of the side, it’s worth noting that this is an acceptable circumstance should he be replacing a departing player. What’s more, if he fits Dean Smith’s system at Villa better than any current player, he’s a must-buy. Doing right by Dean Smith is important, and AVFC need players like Sawyers if they want to engage the opposition in their own half and execute a high-block with energy. Smith’s side needs deep playmakers, counter-attacking tendencies, good passing and high energy. Sawyers brings all of this to Villa, as well as a bag of skill moves.
Despite being labelled as an attacking midfielder, there is a bit of deception in Sawyer’s true role, and it’d likely be a mistake to label him as a number ten or a playmaker. Romaine is a gifted ball-winner and a dynamic box-to-box talent in a similar vein to John McGinn. There are plenty of late runs from deep, surging passes from deep, and playmaking talents from deep within Sawyers. There is a striker in Sawyers, but it’s clear that his later development and growth will see him drop further back when starting possession. His attacking capabilities are not raw, or to be ignored either. Sawyers, in key games, lined up in a midfield three at Brentford - behind the attacking midfielder as a part of a deeper duo. Can he player as an attacking midfielder? Certainly. Will Villa use him there? Probably not.
A strong case against any would-be signing of Sawyers is that the club should be concentrating on signing a new goalkeeper and sorting out their defence. The comeback to that is that the signing of Romaine Sawyers wouldn’t at all impact on any defensive signings, and his ball-winning abilities will only help a Villa side in transition (and in need of defensive assistance). Also, it might not be the case that Villa need to ‘sort out their defence’ and more of the fact that their gameplan needs fine-tuning. If Sawyers in Smith’s eyes is key to that, then he is key to that. At any rate, this potential buy does not mean Villa suddenly lose interest in a goalkeeper upgrade or additional full-backs.
Do Villa need Sawyers? Probably not. But with such a strong side, Villa aren’t really seeking what they need - and they are in the perfect position to start executing fantastic transfer moves by bringing in the players that they want. They didn’t need to sign John McGinn in the summer, but that luxury move has proved to be an incredible success. There’s no desperation or need for lunges with Villa’s strategy this coming January, and Romaine Sawyers would represent one hell of a smart buy for the Villa.