There’s a lot to be said for opening the debate on Villa’s numerous loan players.
But this isn’t a debate about fringe youth players or those faces banished to European leagues. As desperate as you are to see Aly Cissohko (on loan at Olympiakos) gracing Villa Park again.
Carles Gil [whilst not necessarily as key as some would have you believe at Deportivo La Coruna] does though perhaps warrant a second look.
This is a player who has all of the technical attributes, passing range and vision we might want at Villa. At least as an option.
The question is can we actually accommodate a player of this style?
Do we need Gil as we look to reshape our squad and approach ahead of any promotion push?
Or should we simply just cut our losses?
Gil came in for praise at the weekend, putting in a good performance as Deportivo overturned Barcelona.
Context is important though.
This was a Barcelona side coming off the back of unprecedented exertions against Paris St Germain.
Gil contributed and helped as the La Liga strugglers secured 3 valuable points in their relegation battle, yet scored just a 2/3 stars in Spanish newspaper Marca.
Gil also wasn’t on the pitch for the winner, or a third of the game, having been subbed on the hour mark.
One of the biggest challenges in seeing Gil back in the Villa side would be his all round contribution.
His diminutive figure still sees him easily labelled as “light-weight” or a “luxury” player.
For all of the neat flicks, there were countless occasions he was simply out-muscled in the Premier League. The Championship is arguably even more combative in nature.
La Liga could certainly not be described as a stern test of physicality either.
The Villa team prior to summer 2016 had little in the way of physical presence. Gil was purchased to be the creative free-spirit within a midfield composed of limited grit; Westwood, Gardner, Grealish & Veretout. Idrissa Gueye? Hardly set the world alight at VP in this blogs view.
Even as recently as February , we saw the drawbacks of shoe-horning of otherwise talented players into unfamiliar roles, with both Lansbury & Hourihane shackled to defence minded roles in the absence of Mile Jedinak.
There are other positives to be had.
Gil was praised for his nulling of Sergio Busquets’ influence against Barcelona, no mean feat. This at least evidences that he has developed in this area of his game to some degree.
Assists are also an interesting area.
Gil currently has 4 in his 14 La Liga appearances this season. Lionel Messi has 7 in 22 appearances, for comparison. The Argentinian does though boast a golden boot leading 23 goals; Gil has none.
Whilst Messi is a different proposition altogether, Gil could surely offer something, if only impact or a technically different substitute?
Albert Adomah perhaps offers a more reasonable benchmark, at least given on the basis of the opposition that Gil might expect to face with Villa should he return next term. Adomah currently has 9 assists from 23 starts this term (+3 goals).
Whilst Adomah is a ‘different’ player, both physically and technically, few would argue that in terms of overall quality, Gil would surely be rated equal or arguably better?
And dare we open a Grealish/Gil discussion?
Would any return impede the progress of Andre Green, or compliment it?
Nothing should be off the table.
The club finds itself where it is because for years because it meandered aimlessly, often making expensive, rash decisions.
Whilst the expensive mistakes are something we still need to shake off [McCormack for one…], a more methodical approach to buying and retaining good players appears to be the aim.
Is the Carles Gil we know the one who can turn players inside out and score a screamer [think Bournemouth, Leicester goals or Sunderland goals]?
Has he developed from the “promising” player, who lacked the experience to dig in?
Or the player who, as Villa floundered in our relegation season, failed to stake a place in our worst ever team?
The opportunity to resurrect a Villa career still exists for Gil [and others], with CEO Keith Wyness, as recently as early March 2017 remarking:
We are very aware of these players and have a loan manager who watches all of the players out on loan.
We would have a lot of eyes on the future of these players and they are big decisions going forward.
Certainly the door is not closed.
Gil remains contracted to Villa until June 2019.