Poor summer recruitment means relegation beckons for Villa
The last two sides that were bottom at Christmas, Leicester City (2014/15) and Sunderland (2013/14) have both survived relegation, but going into Christmas this year Aston Villa look unlikely to repeat such a feat.
Villa have a paltry 7 points from a possible 51, have won just 1 Premier League match all season and look like one of the worst sides in the Premier League in many years. Last season, there was an argument that bottom placed Leicester City’s results had not been a true reflection of their matches and they deserved many more points. While in 2013/14, Sunderland were just 4 points from safety. This Villa side are 5 points adrift of Sunderland in 19th and 7 points away from safety.
To say things look bleak for the Midlander’s would be an understatement.
So why has it gone so wrong, so quickly for last season’s FA Cup finalists and a side who appeared on the up under former manager Tim Sherwood?
Well a major contributing factor is poor recruitment and transfer strategy.
With the impending departures of Villa’s three most influential players and the spine of their side, Ron Vlaar, Fabien Delph and Christian Benteke, recruitment was always going to be essential for Villa over the summer.
Villa hired ex Arsenal analytics guru, Hendrik Almstadt as sporting director in July 2015. Almstadt and Villa’s Director of recruitment Paddy Riley with input from then manager Tim Sherwood, were hugely influential in Villa’s signings over the summer. Many of Villa’s signings, were based on statistical findings, using data to identify the best value for money. Villa focused on the French market for value. Idrissa Gueye was brought in for £9m, Jordan Amavi and Jordan Veretout arrived for £7m each while £8.5m was spent on Jordan Ayew.
Jordan Amavi has impressed at times while Jordan Ayew has shown some decent signs, but after 17 matches, it is fair to say that Villa are in negative return on investment on the £31.5m they spent in France over the summer.
£7m was also spent on 19 year old Barcelona winger Adama Traore despite never making an appearance in La Liga. Traore has yet to start a Premier League match for Villa.
It’s refreshing that data is becoming more and more influential in football, clubs who totally ignore such an approach could soon find themselves slipping behind. However, clubs who combine a data driven approach with poor recruitment decisions and a bad transfer strategy are playing with fire and in Aston Villa’s case will get burnt.
Villa’s squad looks alarmingly short of leaders, personality and goals and this is a result of very poor recruitment and failure to identify what was required at the club. Six of Aston Villa’s ten first team signings over the summer were players coming from abroad with no Premier League experience. Assuming Villa’s signings were of the right quality, something that is still questionable, did Villa not account for adaptation time? Players coming from a different country invariably need time to adapt to a new league, a new club and a new country. Villa signed six that needed this transition in a summer where they lost their three best players. Regression was always likely. And regression from Villa’s 17th place finish last season, is relegation.
Recently promoted clubs can be forgiving for not having squads with the requisite quality to perform at Premier League level but it is a travesty that a regular Premier League club such as Aston Villa can have amassed a squad with such little quality and characteristics.
Astute recruitment cannot be underestimated, especially for clubs in the lower echelons of the Premier League. Poor recruitment can be costly and Villa look set to find out just how expensive.
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