Bolasie signing is a real statement of intent from Villa

August 27, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa 

Aston Villa confirmed the loan signing of Everton winger Yannick Bolasie on August 25 and revealed he will wear the number 11 shirt. The 29-year-old joined Everton from Crystal Palace in 2016 but had only gone on to make 23 Premier League starts due to injury.

Bolasie ruptured his cruciate ligaments in December 2016 with 13 league appearances under his belt, just four months into his debut season with the Toffees and didn’t return until December 2017. He made 16 league appearances in his second campaign but hasn’t made the matchday since.

As a result, the DR Congo international has sought a loan move away from Goodison Park to get much-needed playing time again, and his arrival is a real statement of intent from Villa. Bolasie is sure to be rusty, but at his best he’s a top Premier League winger who is capable of beating anyone.

Bruce spoilt for choice in attack

Villa manager Steve Bruce is overstocked with attackers after Bolasie’s arrival, let alone the other loan signing of Anwar El Ghazi. The duo will compete with Andre Green, Alberto Adomah, Jonathan Kodjia and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Scott Hogan and Keinan Davis for minutes on the pitch, so Villa certainly shouldn’t have a problem with goals.

Bolasie should be a regular in the starting lineup when fit. He likes pulling players out of position and whipping balls into the box. The 29-year-old can also put chances away himself. Bruce has a lot of variety and should enjoy the selection headache that ensues from having so many players fighting for limited places.

Bolasie has a point to prove

After scoring and creating just six goals in 32 games for Everton, Bolasie has a lot to prove at Villa. He should favour playing one division below the Premier League as he gets used to regular first-team football again, and should use the opportunity to send a message to Everton that he’s back. He could put himself in the shop window for other sides too.

With three years remaining on his contract at Everton, Bolasie could yet forge a career with the Merseysiders if he has a good season at Villa Park. Supporters can’t believe their luck that such a talented Premier League player has arrived at the Midlands and their bid for promotion has taken a big boost.

Bolasie’s signing is a real statement of intent from Aston Villa. The club beat out a lot of competition and should reap the rewards from his influence.

It’s hard to tell if Villa have started well or badly this season

August 27, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
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Aston Villa are currently fourth in the Championship, unbeaten with nine points from five games this season, but supporters aren’t sure if they’re doing well or slightly underachieving.

Being in a playoff spot so early into the campaign is certainly good, but Villa’s unbeaten start glosses over a three-match win that they’ve failed to win.  Steve Bruce’s men last tasted victory on August 11 with a 3-2 win over Wigan.

  • 6/8/18 (Championship) Hull City 1-3 Aston Villa
  • 11/8/18 (Championship) Aston Villa 3-2 Wigan Athletic
  • 14/8/18 (League Cup) Yeovil Town 0-1 Aston Villa
  • 18/8/18 (Championship) Ipswich Town 1-1 Aston Villa
  • 22/8/18 (Championship) Aston Villa 2-2 Brentford
  • 25/8/18 (Championship) Aston Villa 1-1 Reading

Manager Steve Bruce isn’t satisfied with nine points from a possible 15 and admitted in a post-match interview that Villa should be doing a little better. To have dropped points at home to Brentford and Reading is disappointing and was the reason why Villa had to settle for a playoff place, rather than be in the mix for an automatic promotion spot.

As per the Birmingham Mail, Bruce said: “Unfortunately, we have had a decent start but a few mistakes have cost us dearly. We could have been four points better off but individual errors, which is the one thing you can’t legislate for, have cost us. We should have been in front and away, but we weren’t. We remain unbeaten but we’re disappointed. It could have been a really wonderful start.”

He’s not wrong. Back-to-back wins over Hull and Wigan had fans daring to believe again after a woeful summer of uncertainty, but Villa then couldn’t break down 10-man Ipswich at Portman Road and had to rescue a late point to Brentford. Reading scored late to earn a draw against them on the weekend.

Villa are only four points off the automatic promotion places with 41 more games to play, but home matches against supposedly weaker opponents has to become their bread and butter victories. They can’t keep falling short in games they’re big favourites in otherwise the Villans will continue to lose ground on the frontrunners.

Villa’s home form has been a worry in recent months. Bruce’s men have dropped points in five of their last six league games at Villa Park. An unbeaten start to the new season sounds good but being three games without a win sounds bad. There’s plenty of room for improvement, so at least Bruce has acknowledged that and hasn’t defended results by using Villa’s high league position.

What a difference a month makes for Aston Villa

August 12, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
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Aston Villa are currently third in the Championship table with a 100% record from their first two matches and supporters may be dreaming of promotion this season.

It’s quite the turnaround, as a month ago Villa were facing a winding up order and threatened to go out of business before Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens came in to save the club.

Now, the Midlands outfit have enjoyed their best start to a season this century and things are looking up. What a difference a month makes.

Previous uncertainty over the future of Xia, Bruce and Grealish

After Aston Villa missed a tax payment, Tony Xia’s future at the club was in doubt. Many felt he could sell the club and depart, but the Chinese Businessman said himself in a club statement that he wanted an investor to make up the shortfall.

Xia had no intention of leaving, as he clearly felt he could find financial backing, but it was a nervy period for supporters before Sawiris and Edens were announced. The Midlands outfit were barely surviving from month to month, racking up a lot of debt in the process and Xia’s statement revealed the sales of key players could chip away at the deficit – leading to Jack Grealish speculation.

After failing to achieve promotion in his two seasons as Villa manager, Steve Bruce may have lost his job had it not have been for the club’s spiralling finances. Sacking the experienced boss would mean compensation, something the club had little money for. Bruce was in a strong position and was backed by the club’s new owners, so he’ll remain in charge for at least another season. Could it be third-time lucky?

Promotion the aim again for Villa

After such a good start, it’s hard to temper expectations. Villa are third in the Championship table with six points from their first two games after beating Hull City 3-1 and Wigan Athletic 3-2. There’s still plenty of the season remaining, but they’ve confounded their critics to start well amid all the previous uncertainty.

The Midlands outfit reached the playoffs final last season, losing to Fulham at Wembley. They were fourth that campaign, seven points adrift of an automatic promotion spot. With Bruce still in charge and the squad having kept all but one of its important stars – John Terry could retire after leaving Villa – their squad is more than capable of improving upon 2017/18.

Time will tell if they can deliver, however.

‘Let’s get to work’ – Grealish seals legendary status at Aston Villa

August 11, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Transfer News 

Aston Villa Jack Grealish endeared himself to supporters after handling speculation about his future in a mature fashion. Rather than releasing soundbites about his ambition to play in the Premier League and Champions League while loosely committing his future to his existing club, he kept out of the limelight and has since done his talking on the pitch.

Despite some tabloids suggestion the opposite, the 22-year-old has been focused on the start of the new season with Villa and wasn’t entertaining the idea of a transfer. Jack’s own brother spoke out on social media to deny the rumours still linking him with Tottenham, insisting he was staying at Villa Park. And after that news was confirmed, Grealish shared his most-liked tweet:

After impressing in Villa’s opening game victory against Hull City days previously, the midfielder reaffirmed his love for the club in a tweet. But the latest one mean a lot to supporters given many were divided on whether or not he wanted to stay. There were rumours he was furious with Villa for not letting him leave and that he was considering taking action to push through a late move. That turned out to be wildly inaccurate and Grealish has instead been doing his talking on the football pitch.

The England u21 international was outstanding against Hull City on August 6, making one assist, completing 95% of his passes, drawing seven fouls and making more interceptions (2) than his teammates. He followed up a top performance with another terrific showing against Wigan Athletic on Saturday, creating six chances, having more touches (70) than any teammate and making five dribbles.  He’s clearly not let the speculation get to him and relishes being Villa’s golden boy. Grealish will be key to Bruce taking the club up this season.

New deal on the table

The latest news is that Grealish could be signing a new deal with Villa to take his contract past 2020. The 22-year-old has already committed his future to the club, but now he has the chance to cement his loyalty. Fans already see him as a legend despite his young age, but a new contract would propel him to new heights.

Villa manager Steve Bruce admitted he feared losing the playmaker, but it looks like he’s set to stay for at least another season. Whether or not Tottenham Hotspur return for the midfielder remains to be seen, but fans won’t be scared of losing him anymore.

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?

Aston Villa’s transfer business on hold until Xia can free up funds

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

Aston Villa have put their transfer business on hold this summer until chairman Dr Tony Xia can correct their financial problems, according to latest reports. The Villans recently missed a tax payment which saw them in danger of a winding-up order from HMRC and their long-term future as a club is uncertain.

Xia has been accused of mortgaging the club’s future by investing heavily to attain promotion from the Championship without having a contingency plan in place if the Midlands outfit didn’t go up. Villa reportedly have buyers, but Xia needs to decide what his next step is.

Manager Steve Bruce will meet with technical director Steve Round to discuss transfers ahead of the new season, but it’s unlikely there will be funds to play with. Instead, there could be a mass exodus at Villa.

Recruitment will consistent of bargains and internal solutions

Aston Villa curbed their spending last summer to keep in line Financial Fair Play, signing free transfers and bringing players in on loan. They will have to do the same thing this summer as Xia hasn’t invested any money for recruitment. The Midlands outfit will have to part company with valuable assets to ensure the club have enough money to stay in business.

In Xia’s first season at Villa, the club spent £76m on new arrivals and finished 13th in the Championship. They couldn’t repeat the spending feat despite the need to get into the top-six as Xia had little money available. And Villa’s failure to win in the playoff final last season has cost them dearly and will affect their transfer activity this summer.

They only spent £2.5m last summer and that trend looks set to continue, with academy players likely to be promoted to replace first-team players sold. The most valuable first-teamers will have a price too, but fans shouldn’t expect anything other than free transfers and loans brought in to replace him.

What does Xia want to do with Villa?

Aston Villa are at a standstill until Xia makes clear his plans for the future. The owner is trying to sort investment to save the club but still wants to maintain a controlling stake. The players will return for pre-season training in the coming days and they should see their wages paid for June, but there is uncertainty beyond that.

Reports suggest Villa have had offers, but nothing serious enough to be accepted. Xia won’t want to leave without getting his money back, having spent roughly £70m to buy the club only two years ago, but the Villans are losing a lot of value due to their debt.

There won’t be any objectives in the Championship next season, only to consolidate and find a thrifty solution to building the squad again. Xia needs to clear the situation up with supporters as it’s been a summer to forget so far. Everything remains on hold.

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