With the January transfer window now closed – Unai Emery’s first as Aston Villa boss – we’re left to analyse and debate the success of our business over the past month.
There were just two new signings made, with Alex Moreno and Jhon Duran arriving from Real Betis and Chicago Fire respectively.
READ MORE: Villa confirm trio of loan decisions as duo depart
It was busier in terms of outgoings, with Danny Ings and Frederic Guilbert leaving in permanent moves, Cameron Archer, Morgan Sanson and Marvelous Nakamba all exiting on loan until the end of the season while both Jan Bednarek and Ludwig Augustinsson have moved on after being recalled from their loan stints with us.
Emery has looked to clear space in the squad for the rest of the season, perhaps with the view of more departing Villa in the summer, and although we were quiet in the end with regards to incomings, he has been adamant that he only wants to bring in players who would significantly improve us.
Whether it was our priority targets not being available in this window, or that they were given valuations that were beyond a sensible offer, Villa will now plan for the summer to bring in new faces and strengthen the group.
Looking back at our business last month though, was it a successful window?
Signings of Moreno, Duran analysed
Having seen Moreno in action already, the Spaniard looks to be an excellent acquisition, not only in terms of the qualities that he brings to the Villa XI, but also in that he is a better fit for Emery’s ideas and style of play.
That one certainly looks like a smart swoop, and while we await Duran’s debut, there is a lot of optimism and excitement given the potential he has, and particularly with Emery now overseeing his development.
While Ollie Watkins will undoubtedly lead the line and be our first-choice option up top, Duran will look to adapt and adjust as quickly as possible under the watchful eye of Emery, who has already helped several Villa players improve since taking charge.
They will both hopefully establish themselves as fundamental figures in the squad, and so putting aside the lack of signings beyond them, those look to be two good additions.
More was expected – and arguably needed – with Villa now looking to push on in the coming months in pursuit of a top-half finish and possibly even a European qualification spot, and so there was disappointment that we couldn’t do more.
Nevertheless, it’s important to trust in Emery’s judgement, his ability to get even more from the players at his disposal, and perhaps even some of our youngsters will get opportunities to impress if needed with some retained rather than sent back out on loan.
Outgoings as bit-part players moved on
It was a relief for both parties to finally see Guilbert move on, and after constant debates and discussions about how Ings fitted into the side, whether with or without Watkins, that conversation is now over and we got a good deal for a player who turns 31 this summer and was one of our higher earners despite largely being limited to the bench.
Archer will hopefully enjoy a successful loan stint at Middlesbrough as that move was crucial for his development, while Sanson and Nakamba will hope to impress in the coming months and potentially earn a permanent switch elsewhere in the summer if their situation isn’t going to change at Villa.
Both Bednarek and Augustinsson were surplus to requirements and ultimately questionable additions last summer, and so it’s good business sense from Villa to agree to let them go back as we look at our other options moving forward.
It’s fair for some to be concerned over the lack of depth in the squad now as we’ll hope to avoid injuries and suspensions in key areas, and it does feel as though we may possibly have missed a big opportunity to kick on this season and push up the table.
However, with Diego Carlos hopefully returning this month, with Emery still perhaps feeling he can get more out of the group as well as possibly seeing real potential in some of the youngsters at the club and thus giving them a chance to stake a claim, it promises to be an intriguing few months to see what shape we’re in heading into the summer window, which will now be a crucial opportunity to strengthen.