By Dave Woodhall.
The transfer window finally closed with the idea that no big deals are ever done in January finally blown out of the water.
I’ve given up counting how much has been spent in the last 31 days, but suffice to say Villa’s £18 million purchase of Darren Bent, which would have been far and away the biggest deal of any other mid-season window, will attract scarcely a sideways glance when the insanity of the past few days is talked about in years to come.
Fernando Torres’ £50 million move to Chelsea was the biggest deal, but his proposed (at the time of writing) replacement in the form of £35 millionsworth of Andy Carroll has got to be the most ludicrous transfer of all time. Carroll has had a decent season in the Championship, five months in the Premier League, and he’s costing almost twice as much as Bent, a proven goalscorer over almost a decade. When football finally does self-destruct, 31st January 2011 will go down as the day the fuse was lit.
Villa have done well during the window. Only time will tell how our new arrivals perform, but Bent is proven quality, while Kyle Walker has settled in nicely. Jean Makoun seems to have a good pedigree and at £5 million could prove a bargain. The last-day loan deal that brought Mike Bradley from Borussia Monchengladbach could also prove a good one. Bradley has a reputation as a combative, goalcoring central midfielder who, if he does well, is available at a knockdown price.
When Gerard Houllier was appointed Villa manager his chief attraction seemed to be a widespread scoring network. This has certainly been born out already. It also seems that players want to sign for the Villa manager. In addition to the four who arrived at Villa Park, Omar Cummins and Guieda Fofana also agreed to join the club only for work permit problems and a failed medical to intervene. With the fortunate exception of Wayne Bridge and a tentative bid for Charlie Adam, whatever Houllier wanted during January, he got. That can only bode well for the summer.
There’s also been a couple of games this week. Wigan away could have been a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show of the Manchester City win, but Villa went up there and came away with three routine points, only a late deflected goal causing a minor problem. The FA Cup fourth round was also a matter of routine. Blackburn made their sixth trip to Villa Park in just over 12 months (I’m starting to recognise some of their supporters now) and were disposed of by three goals to one. Again, there was little to worry about except for a bit of defensive calamity midway through the first half, and were it not for the sending-off of Nathan Baker we could have won more convincingly.
The fifth round draw saw us given one of the hardest ties possible, with a visit to Eastlands should Manchester City beat Notts County in their replay. Before then we have today’s trip to Old Trafford, where anything less than defeat will be a massive bonus and on Saturday Fulham visit Villa Park. Like Villa, they’ve hit a decent run of form lately but this game should be a lot less fraught than it might have been a couple of weeks ago.
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