Aston Villa have had plenty of success in the transfer window in the last couple of years – and there have been plenty of indicators as to how they’ll approach the coming summer market.
Lowering the average age of the squad was key upon Villa’s return to the top flight; they were going to have to replace the likes of Alan Hutton, Glenn Whelan, Mile Jedinak and Albert Adomah.
Dean Smith did so – and he went again at the beginning of this summer with a clear idea of where his squad needed strengthening and who he wanted bringing into the club.
Window by window, piece by piece, a plan has emerged that has involved recruiting some of the most underrated English talent from the Championship and from the fringes of Premier League clubs.
Tyrone Mings and Matt Targett had no real future at Bournemouth and Southampton respectively when Villa made moves to sign them in the summer of 2019 and, although they paid top dollar for both, the pair have proved to be extremely reliable additions who have combined well on the left side of Villa’s defence.
The Championship is a league that Smith knew well anyway, even before his promotion success at Villa – specifically Brentford.
Smith wanted a striker, and Ollie Watkins met those requirements. He wanted to increase the competition in the centre half department, and he and Villa moved for Ezri Konsa; nowadays he’s one of the first picks in the entire starting line-up.
The Bees have been well remunerated on both occasions, but you’d have to argue that Villa have polished them both, given them the biggest platform to showcase their talent and both now would be worth much more than what the Lions spent in the first place.
Then there is Matty Cash.
Like Watkins and Konsa, he’d never played in the Premier League before he signed for Villa but he was one of the best full-backs in an over-performing Nottingham Forest team last term who missed out on the play-offs in farcical circumstances.
Smith wanted to upgrade on Ahmed Elmohamady and Frederic Guilbert, and Cash fitted the bill. He hasn’t let Smith down.
What has been crucial, too, is that Villa have now emerged as a vessel for whom Gareth Southgate can rely upon. Routinely now the former defender sits in the Villa Park stands on any given match-day. Villa have as many as three regular picks in the England squad when the international break swings around, once you add in Jack Grealish.
Do you want all the latest Villa news, views and transfer talk sent straight to your inbox?
- All you have to do is click here
- Enter your selection and email address.
That’s all it takes, so why are you waiting?
So there is a clear pathway to the Three Lions set-up, if you are a burgeoning English star who happens to catch Villa’s eye this summer. Indeed while Cash and Targett have particularly hot competition in the full-back areas, there remain big calls for Konsa to have more of a look-in.
Of course Villa’s recruitment policy isn’t limited to upcoming English talent. Emi Martinez and Douglas Luiz have both become integral figures in Smith’s starting XI and further afield Bertrand Traore, Trezeguet and Anwar El Ghazi have all been added in the last 18 months.
But when Villa have been linked with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Dwight McNeil, to name but a few, it’s easy to see why aspiring talents from these shores might opt for Villa in the coming transfer windows – and that makes it all the more exciting for those already within.