After a shock and awe[some] win against Fulham (0-3) last night, a fine performance and result can mask that Villa have unfinished business in the transfer market.
This away win, Villa’s second of the season, underlines the promise amongst a squad that has been methodically improved. However, a long campaign will inevitably include injuries, suspensions and tougher challengers than that which met us at Craven Cottage.
The visit of reigning Premier League Champions Liverpool this Sunday evening, will provide the sternest test yet.
Smith has been clear in recent remarks that from his perspective, he expects at least one new face through the door.
This does causes some confusion, particularly as the Villa gaffer indicated his preference for a midfielder, which stands in contrast to the fact that striker Ally Samatta’s departure leaves a space in the attacking department.
Villa continue to be linked with Chelsea’s Ross Barkley. The former Everton man appears preferred to Loftus-Cheek, whom despite appealing, hasn’t managed 90 minutes in 16 months following injury.
However, Barkley is known to want to fight for his place at Stamford Bridge, but with Frank Lampard having strengthened significantly during pre-season, his chance to impress may come from afar.
Separately, Villa’s interest in Said Benrahma has arguably cooled, despite the club being endlessly included within lists of PL sides reportedly eager to take the Algerian.
Embed from Getty Images
Villa aren’t in the desperate position like just a matter of days before the new season, with Ollie Watkins acquired from Brentford and Bertrand Traore snapped up in a shrewd piece of business from Lyon.
Benrahma is a fine example of the rapid inflation around interesting Championship players, with Thomas Frank holding out for at least £20m for the creative midfielder.
The 25 year old, at that price, remains a risky piece of business with the top flight a major step up from the second tier. Smith will of course know all about the Algerian’s attributes having been his former boss and might ponder the prospect of adding Watkins’ supporting cast member to the squad.
West Ham and Crystal Palace, whose London location may appeal to Benrahma, continue to hold a firm interest to rival that of Villa’s.
Finally, there is the continued rumours linking Villa for a move, if only on loan, for Rhian Brewster.
Sheffield United and Palace, increasingly eager to add strike-power to their sides are looking to tempt Liverpool with a big money bid for the young attacker.
Chris Wilder is perhaps the most increasingly desperate amongst the manager’s, with Sheffield United enduring a disastrous losing start to the new season. United are known to have lodged a bid of around £17m, including a buy-back clause to the tune of £40m should Klopp wish to recall Brewster.
Villa remain cash-rich and might consider a permanent deal an unnecessary risk for a player with no PL experience.
This could prompt Smith to explore other options, with the likes of Divock Origi, Teemu Pukki or Ante Budimir cheaper, but certainly short-term fixes.