It’s a measure of the media’s obsession with the top six that deals below that level tend to fall under the radar. Even when a team signs a player of Philippe Coutinho’s quality, there is little fuss on the TV and in the press.
The gossip columns would prefer to discuss rumour and conjecture relating to those sides battling for the Champions League places. It’s an inevitable situation but it allows other clubs to quietly go about their business.
And it’s been serious business for Aston Villa. Coutinho is the standout but, with other arrivals joining him in the squad, it may well be the case that Steven Gerrard’s men have had the best window out of all the Premier League clubs.
What are the genuine targets?
As Premier League teams went into the January break ahead of the fourth round of FA Cup ties, Aston Villa sat in 11th place on 26 points. If the club has aspirations of any European involvement in 2022/23, they would need to finish in seventh in order to progress to the Europa Conference League.
Having been knocked out of the FA Cup at the hands of Manchester United, that’s the only target left for the remainder of this campaign. Not surprisingly, there is little support amongst the bookmakers here. A top-six betting market supplied by online sportsbooks linked to Asiabet.org shows the Villain’s down with the rank outsiders.
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Efficient customer service and the potential for live streaming football matches for those with funded accounts add to the benefits. Aston Villa may not attract too much interest in those markets right now but clearly, the manager is working on a long term project.
Steven Gerrard knew Philippe Coutinho from his time at Liverpool so, while the Brazilian international had struggled at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the manager was convinced that he could do a job in the Premier League.
That faith was repaid instantly as Coutinho scored on his debut – coming on as a 70th-minute substitute in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United. As we move through the season, Villa fans will be hoping that the midfielder becomes more than an impact sub but it’s a strong start.
Gerrard also moved to secure the services of Lucas Digne from Everton. A left-sided defender, the experienced French international will be employed to fill a key area for his new club.
One final piece of January business sees Swedish international goalkeeper Robin Olsen join Aston Villa on loan for the remainder of the 2021/22 season. The 32-year-old is expected to provide cover and a little competition for Emiliano Martinez but Olsen is unlikely to become a first-team regular.
Retaining Top Talent
Aston Villa has not earned any money through player sales as yet although a number of fringe squad members have left on loan. Aaron Ramsey, Wesley and Cameron Archer are among those who have signed temporary contracts elsewhere.
In the dying embers of the January transfer window, Gerrard may yet face a battle to keep John McGinn at the club. The Scottish international midfielder is another player to have scored on his Premier League debut and he’s been an important member of the squad over four seasons.
Reports suggest that Manchester United want to sign McGinn and that’s a link that the player may find tough to turn down. If he stays, it will be another coup for the manager in an impressive window.
The media focus may be elsewhere but this has undoubtedly been an impressive month for Aston Villa. It may not be enough to secure European football just yet but this is a solid platform on which to build.