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Aston Villa
Posted by Jerrad Peters on 01/17/2011

Darren Bent arrived at Villa Park for a medical on Monday afternoon, just a day after tabling a transfer request at Sunderland. The £18 million spent on the 27-year-old striker, and the £6 million paid for Lyon midfielder Jean Makoun, brings Aston Villa’s January spending to £24 million, in addition to the loan acquisition of Kyle Walker. Oh, to know what Martin O’Neill is thinking right about now.

These are the sorts of deals the former Villa boss would have loved to have made in the summer, had club owner Randy Lerner agreed to open the checkbook. In Bent, Makoun and Walker, current Villa manager Gerard Houllier has upgraded three positions that desperately required addressing – one in each third of the park.

Walker, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, has made a quick impact at right-back. He scored just nine minutes into his club debut and put in a solid performance against Birmingham City on Sunday. His presence is an immediate improvement over either Luke Young or Carlos Cuellar or whoever Houllier would otherwise play in the position.

Makoun will similarly boost Villa’s presence in central midfield. The Cameroon hardman has played in big matches internationally and in the Champions League and will provide his midfield partner a creative license—something the team have sorely lacked this season. He’ll also take significant pressure off Barry Bannan and allow Stiliyan Petrov the occasional rest.

Bent, meanwhile, will provide goals. Yes, £18 million is a lot to spend on him, but Villa have tallied just 24 times in 22 Premier League matches and often lack any sort of spark up front. Bent will solve that problem immediately. He notched 25 goals for the Black Cats last season and has 11 in 23 appearances so far this term. If he stays healthy, he’s good for at least 20 goals per season, and that type of player comes neither easily nor cheaply.

Houllier is also mulling the loan signing of Colorado Rapids striker Omar Cummings. The 28-year-old Jamaica international scored 14 goals for the Major League Soccer outfit in 2010 and has been training with Villa this month. He would obviously be a depth player, but that’s an area the club need to work on as well.

These are good moves by Houllier, and kudos to Lerner for spending the money. But it begs the question: why not six months earlier?

Had O’Neill been given a £20 million transfer kitty on top of the proceeds from James Milner’s transfer to Manchester City, he’d probably still be at the club. The club would be better coached than it is now, and its position would be closer to the European places than the drop zone.

Of course, Villa had just completed a third successive sixth-place season, and Lerner probably considered the performance to be good enough, both in the table and at the bank. What he failed to understand was the importance of continual investment, not only to advance the club up the standings, but also to retain the status quo.

He’s learned that now. The spectre of relegation can be a powerful motivator.

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Posted by azuk on 01/17/2011

He never denied O'neil money for transfers that's a myth that's been perpetuated ever since the only comment from the club over money was deals the £71m wage bill had to be the limit so he had to sell his fringe players that weren't playing (players HE bought for big money and put £2m a year) before he could re-build. Of course he was always going to find it hard to re-coup £7.5m for Reo-Coker...

Posted by Dan Perry on 01/17/2011

Yes, either that or he finally realised that Martin O' Neill has wasted enough of our money and had not listened to the warning he was given at the end of last season. Sell the fringe players (beye, sidwell, reo-coker, luke young etc.) he bought and then decided to never play or he gets no more money to fritter away on players that will never get near the pitch.

Posted by Geekay on 01/17/2011

I think you're wide of the mark on O'Neill. There had to be more to the O'Neill/Lerner rift that just refusal of more money to spend-trust.

O'Neill spend a lot of money in signing fees and wages for mediocre players that he did not play. The wage structure has to bought in line and marquee players added to build the overall revenues. While I was an O'Neill fan I don't believe he has the vision or skill to bring in overseas players - critical to building a team to consistently challenge for the top.

Personally I always felt Lerner placed a lot of trust in O'Neill by allowing his one year rolling contract - and look how he was repaid.

Houllier will cull out the players that now need to go, to fix the wage structure, and create depth by adding some more "no risk" choices such as Omar Cummings. Only he could have attracted Jean Makoun for sure.

Ideally it would have been better to wait until summer for Houllier to re-balance the team, but the time is now and the choices are good.

Posted by Big G on 01/17/2011

The whole thing is crazy. M.O.N, if backed would have taken Villa higher. I cant believe Liverpool did not arrest him.

Posted by Aero on 01/17/2011

If he wanted to do these sort of deals, then why didnt he do it with the 120 million he spent over his tenure? Im sure we could have done without players like Sidwell, Heskey, Harewood, Knight and Beye. Randy always supported him, MON was just an idiot by never attempting to sign the 20 goal a season striker we've always clearly needed. He spent ridiculous money, and failed to bring the slightest bit of success. End of story...

Posted by CaliAV on 01/17/2011

Way to go Geekay - you're absolutely right! MON spent over 50 mil two summers ago and did well. But you can only go so far with the avaiable English players in today's league. He had little clue on international players - Salifou who?! Waste. MON did great things to get us here, couldn't take us further (proof as to why Barry and Milner would wanted to go) and then left us in the lurch. Honestly - he destroyed everything good he did with this club by bailing when he did!

You don't see Moyes bailing and he has NO budget! Disgusting in my opinion. Should have quit in Spring. He's dead to this Villa fan.

Posted by Bongo on 01/17/2011

Finally. Comments from my fellow Villa fans that are realistic about MON. All I've heard since Houllier took over was how great O'Neill was. No one seemed to worried about the fact that he stabbed us in the back just before the start of the season.

Well, all the facts have been stated in the above comments. MON signed some extremely average players on huge wages and then never played them (Salifou, Sidwell, Reo-Coker, Harewood & Beye to name a few). He was lucky that the first team he was playing were fit and able to handle the work load. Our runs in both cups and the league last year were a testiment to those players. I think that now GH is starting to attract some quality players to the club (a shame Walker is only on loan. Maybe Spurs will start to think they don't need him and let us keep him...doubtful, though) we will see the team return to where they should be. Maybe not this season, mid table would be the best we can do, but next one.

Posted by Scott on 01/18/2011

Martin O'Neill spent the best part of £200million in is his time at Aston Villa. Gerard Houllier is effectively getting backed the same way but Gerard is using the correct initiative and is buying the european quality players we need.

Posted by bill on 01/18/2011

Claims MON was allowed to spend like this is rubbish. Where do you get 200 million? What about factoring in the money RECEIVED for Barry etc? Remember, MON brought in AYoung, Friedel,Petrov, Carew, Reo-Coker...for every Salifou ( who didn't break the bank, BTW) MON did SIGNIFICANTLY UPGRADE this club from DOL. Unless you have memory deficit disorders, can't you people even recall what it was like when DOL was Mgr?...Look, I love Villa and I want GH to make us winners. But he hasn't done squat with the same group of players the coach some of you are bashing. The only way to save Villa is to destroy most of this roster and bring in new players that want to play for GH. But you better expect GH will sell off A Young and Friedel. Mr Lerner will demand this in the off season as he will try to recoup his losses. He obviously knows the cost of the Drop and knows he has to spend to stay up. But if Villa finishes mid table, don't expect RL to splurge.Better hope GH can coach like he use to.

Posted by Chris on 01/19/2011

I have to wonder as well where the team would be if MON was still there. But that said, MON is seriously stubborn and surely did not like to be told that the wages for his signing was often too high - the fees were fine. Plus I think the players got tired of his over the top pig-headedness.

As for Bent, wow! That's too much money, I don't care if he scores goals or not. That sort of money could have convinced a younger goalscorer to come to the club. I'm not gonna think fancifully and think Benzema would come to the club, but that fee could have gotten a young stud from the Dutch or French League.

Posted by bill on 01/20/2011

Just to clarify some distorted facts MON's 4 years, he spent a NET 84 million.That's about 21 Mill a year. Big Four clubs spend that much on one player.....People forget Harewood's season in 08 when he scored 5 times as Villa's super sub.Reo-Coker has played in over 100 games since joining Villa.MON just upgraded over those 2.He didn't buy and sit them...well, Houllier has no excuses at this point.Bent, Makoun, Walker and maybe a few more. He's spent about 30 mill and that's certainly more than MON ever got at the January window. Let's hope he brings Villa back to where MON left off.

Posted by Bryan on 01/25/2011

MON is history. Get over it. From the moment he left the club, it didn't matter what good or bad he did for the club. His legacy has ended.

Posted by Bill on 01/26/2011

Amazes me how some people forget the "history" of Villa before MON. Perhaps a quck look at where this team was will ignite some brain cells in some of you. That being said, let's hope the team continues to build after the Wigan game. So after we win our next 14 matches, that will give us 70 pts and a CL spot.

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Kevin Hughes Kevin Hughes spent the best part of ten years working and writing for the football magazine Match; once (sort of) inspiring David Beckham to copy his shaved-hair look, getting lost in Paris after the 1998 France v Croatia World Cup semi-final and other such nonsense. As Deputy Editor, he launched and established Sport, the London-based free weekly magazine, before moving on to become a consumer magazine publisher, a position he holds today. Introduced to Villa by his father and grandfather, he attended his first ever match at Villa Park as a seven-year-old in 1982… and has suffered almost constant disappointment since. You can follow him on twitter @KevHughesie

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