Woodburn arrival at Villa could seal Grealish’s exit

July 30, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Transfer News 

Aston Villa are being heavily linked with Liverpool winger Ben Woodburn, with the 18-year-old hot prospect close to joining the Midlands outfit on loan for the season. However, his arrival could mean an existing player leaves the club – Jack Grealish. Tottenham are keen on his signature and may have more look in their pursuit after Villa sign an attacking replacement.

Grealish’s future at Villa Park is uncertain. The club’s failure to earn promotion via the Championship playoffs last season has led to the 22-year-old considering a move elsewhere. While Villa were struggling to pay their monthly tax bill, owner Tony Xia made it clear that funds would have to be made through the sales of existing individuals.

Manager Steve Bruce even backed up the suggestion, calling Grealish’s exit “inevitable”. Villa have since been taken over by Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, two very rich and successful businessmen, but it doesn’t mean the fan favourite won’t leave. If Grealish is offered the chance to play in the Premier League, he can hardly turn it down – especially if he doesn’t believe the Villans will ever make it back.

Having risen through the youth ranks to the first-team, the England u21 international has gone on to make 110 appearances in all competitions, scoring and creating 22 goals. His current deal with the club has two years remaining, but Villa can make the most value by cashing in on the interest.

Nevertheless, losing a talented playmaker who can operate between the lines and is a product of the academy will be tough to take. Grealish has great potential and fans will have hoped he’d realise it at the club, but his future appears to be elsewhere due to Villa failing to match his ambition.

Woodburn would come close to replacing him on the pitch either, as the Liverpool teenager isn’t a like-for-like replacement. He’s made only 11 first-team appearances for the Reds, scoring one goal and could be a talented player in years to come.

At youth level, Woodbury has scored and created 18 goals in 24 games for the u23s and four goals in eight outings for the u19s. Grealish was more of a playmaker who would create chances for teammates, but the Welsh international instead looks like a goalscorer.

Should he complete the move as expected, he’ll be in for a culture shock given his young age and relative first-team inexperience, but Villa may have a gem on their hands if they use him correctly. It’s a shame it may come at the expense of Grealish’s departure.

Villa implementing Wolves’ recruitment strategy for promotion push this season

July 30, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa, Transfer News 

According to Alan Nixon of The Sun, Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce will have little say on the signings made this summer, with new owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens implementing a recruitment strategy that will see an agent work closely with the club to help facilitate the move of talented young players on a loan-to-buy policy.

The Midlands outfit have certainly taken inspiration from rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers who had agent Jorge Mendes help broker deals for a number of talented Portuguese players last season. Villa may call upon Mendes to identify and sign promising individuals that won’t break the bank. Bruce has the backing from the owners, but not when it comes to recruitment.

Previously Technical Director Steve Round was the man in charge of signing players and sell existing individuals, but he left the club this summer after a winding up order nearly came the way of the Midlands outfit. Villa nearly fell foul of Financial Fair Play after a high-spending 2016/17, resulting in them making loan deals and free transfer acquisitions the following campaign.

This summer might be more of the same, as the owners are looking for loan deals that could turn permanent at the end of the season. Promotion was the objective in 2017/18, despite the massive cuts in spending, but 2018/19 might be a different story. Jack Grealish has an uncertain future, and his exit could lead to a domino effect within the first-team squad.

There are a number of players who could follow Grealish through the exit door which would greatly hamper the Villans attempts to return to the Premier League at the third time of asking. Bruce may have left his position if he wasn’t to be given such a big compensation package for a sacking, but he may only have one more season to prove his worth before the owners make a decision.

He’s no longer having a say on recruitment, which suggests the club are paying less importance to the head coach and more on the backroom staff. The most expendable person in such a team is the manager.  If the focus will switch onto an agent or third party bringing in players, there could be a power struggle. Nixon says Bruce is still trying to push through deals for players he previously identified, but he won’t have the final decision. Such a system threatens to undermine the coach in charge and could mean an exit is coming sooner rather than later.

While good news that Villa have found some investment, the politics in the boardroom threaten to spoil any chances of a successful campaign.

Sawiris and Edens complete Aston Villa takeover

July 29, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa 

Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens completed a successful takeover of Aston Villa, buying a controlling stake of 55%, while previous owner Tony Xia will be co-chairman and will remain on the board. The pair have each bought 27.5% of the club which costed them £30m. Sawiris has become executive chairman while Eden is co-chairman.

The pair said in a statement: “As lifelong football fans, we are excited and privileged to have become part of this great club. We believe that together we bring business and sports experience that will help strengthen the club to ensure Aston Villa can return to its rightful place in the upper echelons of English football.

“Our goal is to bring sustainable success to the club, building on its rich history while respecting its loyal fan base and unique culture. We understand that we are stewards of Aston Villa on behalf of the fans and we take that responsibility seriously. We (will) undertake a thorough assessment and evaluation in the coming weeks. Our priority is to strengthen ahead of the upcoming season.”

The company behind the takeover is a jointly-owned venture called NSWE, comprise of the initials of both businessmen. It’s believed they will immediately inject capital into the club, meaning Villa’s financial problems could be coming to an end. Manager Steve Bruce has had their backing to remain in charge, ending any speculation over his immediate future.

Who are the new owners?

Sawiris is a 57-year-old businessman who is executive chairman for the NNS Group – an investment company – who are a large shareholder in US Private Equity firm Bruins Sports Capital and Adidas AG, of whom the Egyptian and Belgian citizen is on the board of. Most importantly, Sawiris is CEO of a £4.7m Dutch listed global Nitrogen fertiliser and industrial chemicals producer.

As for Edens, the 56-year-old is co-founder and co-CEO of Fortress Investment Group, founded in 1998 with £395m. Wes helped grow the business to £31.27bn AUM as of March 31, 2018. He became co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball franchise in 2014 and created eSports franchise, FlyQuest, in 2017.  The pair have been highly successful in their past business ventures and Villa fans will be hoping the trend continues during their time in the Midlands.

The good news is that the club’s long-term future looks a little brighter thanks to the investment from Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, but it’s certainly worrying having seen Keith Wyness sacked, Steve Round depart the club and Tony Xia still be co-chairman despite his actions almost putting Villa out of business. Hopefully the takeover will see a turnaround in fortunes.

Steve Bruce to stay on as Aston Villa manager

July 26, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa, Villa Manager 

Aston Villa released a statement confirming Steve Bruce would be staying on as manager, after rumours the Villans were considering replacing him with Belgium assistant manager Thierry Henry. Bruce held talks with majority owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens and received their support for the new season.

Reaction has been mixed from supporters, as some believe a change in coach was necessary after last season’s failure while others suggest backing Bruce was the sensible decision. After Villa’s investment from Dr Tony Xia ran out this summer, the Midlands club haven’t managed to make a signing, so having the manager stay in charge who knows the players makes sense.

Backing Bruce over appointing Henry is wise

Bruce has come under a lot of criticism after failing to lead Villa to promotion last season. Despite getting the side to the Championship playoff final, questions have been asked why they missed out on a place in the automatic promotion spots given how strong their squad was.

Villa spent more than £70m in 2016/17 and had to curb their spending in 2017/18 to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations. Despite this, they came within 90 minutes of returning to the Premier League, but many people want Bruce’s head after he failed.

However, why would Thierry Henry be a better fit? The Belgium assistant is a relative novice in terms of coaching who has no experience of the Football League. Bruce has won promotion to the Premier League four times with two different clubs. He’s failed to deliver his remit but could have more success with another shot at it and would fare better than Henry, no?

Playing style needs improvement

With Sawiris and Edens backing Bruce, the Villa manager now needs to justify the decision. Fans have taken aim at the 57-year-old for the club’s poor playing style in the last 12 months, with Villa opting for a direct style that isn’t easy on the eye – no Championship side made more crosses last season.

Playing too forward too quickly and bypassing the midfield drew the ire of many fans. Despite having players such as Jack Grealish, Henri Lansbury, Robert Snodgrass and Conor Hourihane last season, Villa’s build-up play was predictable and direct.

An experienced manager like Bruce has to tidy up their play if they want to stand a chance of being promoted. He’s likely to be in charge for another year but could lose his job if 2018/19 turns out to be a failed campaign.

Xia following same footsteps as Lerner, statement lays bare Villa’s problems

July 17, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa 

Aston Villa owner Dr Tony Xia hasn’t addressed supporters on social media directly since June 27. Previously, the Chinese businessman couldn’t go more than a day or two without posting updates about new developments at Villa Park, but it seems he’s deliberate distancing himself from the fans.

Randy Lerner did the same during his time as Villa’s owner. He hardly came to games in the latter years and seldom released statements about the club to its supporters. Before admitting he was putting the club up for sale, he announced a ‘sell-to-buy’ policy, with the idea that self-sufficiency was important.

Many people saw through his words, and now Xia is playing the same trick but with less subtlety. If reports are to be believed and Villa are in genuine danger of going out of business unless they find an investor, the next few weeks will be more than troubling.

Any player in the squad with a modicum of value in the transfer market will be deemed expendable. Eventually Xia is going to have to sell the club and take a loss. He wants to retain a controlling stake in any takeover, but beggars can’t be choosers.

His statement, released on July 6, laid bare all the problems the club have.

  • I have not put the club up for sale

The club may not be officially up for sale, but Xia actively states he needs an investor to keep Villa afloat.

  • I would consider minority investment stakes that bring strategic value to the club to help us achieve our goals, but this will be considered extremely carefully.

The ‘minority’ investor at Villa would be required to provide the majority of capital, so questions should be asked how Xia plans to convince somebody to invest the majority of money for a minority stake.

  • I have not received an offer of 51%. I have received an offer of 30% but we did not believe there was strategic value and we did not know the source of the money

When Xia’s name was linked with Villa in 2016, little was known about him, but he was telling fans not to worry about dubious claims. It turns out those fears two years ago were warranted.

  • FFP is a burden and we need to work within the defined parameters over the course of the next 12 months and beyond and as we have done in the previous 12 months
  • To be clear, to meet FFP we need to player trade. No shareholding sale of any size will contribute to meeting FFP. We must reduce costs and increase revenue

Financial Fair Play was already introduced by the time Xia took over Aston Villa, but he still sanctioned a summer spend of over £70m in 2016/17 and has been paying the price ever since.

When Xia says ‘player trade’ he means player sale. Latest reports state there’s no money to make loan signings, so solutions may have to be from within – academy, reserve squad.

  • Selling any size of shareholding in the club will not aid in respect to FFP

Xia is admitting that the club needs an investor and will have to make its own money through player sales to avoid a punishment over breach of FFP. Keeping the club in business is only half the battle.

  • Steve Bruce remains in charge with my support

Villa can’t afford to sack Bruce and pay his compensation – something the experienced manager is acutely aware of. He won’t leave unless he’s pushed, even though the 2018/19 campaign could be disappointing for the Midlands outfit.

  • There is significant football experience within our playing department and our football administration team who will be supported by the club admin team.

An interesting quote to make given Technical Director Steve Round and chief executive Keith Wyness have departed the club in recent weeks…

All in all, Villa are living month to month financially and need an investor to keep them afloat over the long-term.

Xia has been separating himself from fans and has warned them that high-profile sales will be required this summer, but will he be one of them jumping ship?