Back in the Premier League after a three-year exodus, Aston Villa are going all-out to cement their status having spent a whopping £130m on new recruits to date.
Dean Smith is proving to be the man with the Midas touch after propelling his beloved club from mid-table Championship no-hopers to Premier League big spenders - all in just six months. Smith, a Villa man through and through, was desperate to reassemble the core of players who helped the B6 side gain promotion last term, with £20m Tyrone Mings becoming an important priority signing this summer.
Supporters, meanwhile, are purring at the prospect of an exciting and successful season ahead having signed an influx of new players including Brazilian powerhouse Wesley - a club-record signing - as well as the likes of eccentric Egyptian winger Trezeguet and one-time Arsenal target Bjorn Engels. Out of the three promoted clubs, Villa are the ones who are going hell for leather in a bid to compete and finish as high as possible in the Premier League. Smith isn’t the type of manager who plays for draws, either, so expect high-scoring games and a lot of drama. Watch. This. Space.
Grealish, Lansbury, Bjarnason.
Jota (2), Wesley (2), Grealish.
McGinn (2), El Ghazi, Green.
Hourihane (2), McGinn.
A Sky Sports News graphic pretty much said it all. Dean Smith’s beaming face ahead of the likes of Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer having spent the most money in the transfer window to date - and by some distance too. As many as 12 new additions and a 13th looking likely as Smith still wants to beef up his attack with a new striker. It’s been a transfer window to remember as Villa look set to smash the £150m barrier. Lazy comparisons to Fulham’s spending spree last summer have already been made but Villa got rid of 10 first team players as soon as that whistle blew at Wembley. The likes of Albert Adomah, Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Alan Hutton, Micah Richards, Ross McCormack were all ordered to leave as Smith went about a summer rebuild.
You cannot ask for much more, supporters are ecstatic with business.
The Spaniard was first in the door after making a £4m switch from Villa’s rivals Birmingham City. Gary Gardner headed the opposite direction with Smith revealing this deal “was always in the pipeline, even before Wembley”. Jota performed wonders under Smith at Brentford and the tricky wide man will relish working under his former boss once again. Appears a real snip at £4m.
Last season’s Mr Reliable brushed off a shaky debut against Brentford to become a trusty steed for Smith who relied on the ex-Wolves man to fill in at centre-back and left-back. Still only 24 and signed for a reported £3m, Villa fans and the players were happy with this deal, even if Hause will likely become a squad player next term.
Again, like Hause, El Ghazi is another loan man who impressed last season as Smith went about signing him up as soon as possible on a permanent deal. The winger bagged the opener at Wembley against Derby and lit up Villa Park time and time again in the Championship. Needs to add consistency if he’s to be a Premier League success following his £8m deal from Lille.
The 23-year-old England youth full-back arrived for a reported £14.4m - a decent amount for a player who struggled to establish himself at Saints last season. Targett played second fiddle to Ryan Bertrand and moved to Villa Park to establish himself. Smith was always in the market for a new, energetic full-back with question marks over Neil Taylor’s credentials at the highest level. This is a long-term deal and Targett - an attacking full-back - will be hoping to repay the faith shown in him by Smith.
Aston Villa’s record-signing and the man tasked with banging in the goals on the club’s Premier League return; enter, Wesley Moraes. The 22-year-old arrived from Club Brugge and was named young player of the year in the Belgian top flight last season having scored 10 goals in 28 league games. Villa’s first Brazilian and a player with a remarkable back story: a father at just 15 who worked in a screw factory while one leg is three centimeters shorter than the other. An absolute powerhouse who’ll run and chase down lost causes. Could take the Premier League by storm.
#AnnounceMings was in overdrive on social media all summer long and, finally, Tyrone Mings announced himself at Witton railway station just a stone’s throw away from Villa Park. The classy centre-back was pivotal in Villa’s upturn in fortunes after arriving on deadline day back in January. Villa lost just three games with Mings in their side with the 24-year-old absolutely colossal during the club’s record-breaking 10-game winning streak. This one just had to happen and Villa fans are ecstatic.
‘This kid can achieve anything in the game, he can go on and play for England,’ was the bold statement set out by manager Smith having signed Ezri Konsa for a second time after triggering his £12m release clause. The 21-year-old arrives with a big reputation from Brentford and will be backing himself to force his way into Villa’s starting XI at Tottenham on August 10, the club he supporters.
The 6ft 4in ball-playing Belgian is a tall, rangy centre-back who was once close to joining Arsenal. Smith has been a long-term admirer of Engels and likes how the defender can score goals from set pieces. The 24-year-old signed from Reims after a standout season in Ligue 1. Could be one to watch.
Eccentric, tricky and described by scouts as a “workhorse with pace”. The Egyptian international is a hugely popular figure back in his homeland and impressed in a struggling Kasimpasa side last season, notching nine goals and registering 9 assists. Trezeguet is a livewire who’ll work incredibly hard while he also possess goal-scoring ability for a wide man who’ll cut in from the left on his favoured right foot. Fans are excited by this one having watch him star for Egypt in the African Cup of Nations. A snip at £8.75m.
Brazil’s under-23 captain looks set to arrive in the coming days for a fee in the region of £15m. The 21-year-old impressed Pep Guardiola during Man City’s US tour last summer as City opted not to sign Jorginho from Napoli. Spanish football experts have raved about Douglas following his loan spell at Girona in La Liga. The Brazilian is a holding midfielder who was once mooted as a replacement for Fernandinho at City, who have since signed Atletico Madrid hard man Rodri for £62.5m. Douglas couldn’t secure a work permit last season - hence his loan spell away - but Villa finally sealed this deal after declaring his importance for Villa in the Premier League. Still awaiting a work permit, though.
It was out of the Burnley man and Stoke City's Jack Butland but Heaton, at £8.5m, represents a much better deal than the £20m fee demanded for his England teammate. Loud, confident, the ex-Clarets man will be a leader in this Villa dressing room who has vital Premier League experience. Heaton will reassure Villa's somewhat inexperienced back four. The immaculate 33-year-old goalkeeper could be Villa's shrewdest - and best - signing of the window.
The softly-spoken midfielder arrived from Club Brugge for a fee in the region of £11m. Combative, fiery and good in possession, Nakamba will be Villa's Zimbabwean warrior in the middle of the park and will chase down and harry his Premier League opponents. Was in same side as record-buy Wesley last season at Brugge and played alongside the Brazilian in the Champions League. Brings relentless energy to Villa and will be tasked with protecting the back four and to give the ball to the likes of Grealish and McGinn.
Aston Villa are in good hands under Dean Smith which was proved last season when the ex-Brentford boss dragged Villa from mediocrity to Wembley triumph. Smith works really closely with chief executive Christian Purslow and sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch who have identified the players and type of characters Smith wants at Villa Park.
The manager has also worked first-hand with five of the 12 confirmed recruits, so it’s fair to say he’s not throwing darts in the dark. He’s also built up a strong, close-knit dressing room - a far cry under previous managers - which will hold the B6 side in good stead for the Premier League.
I’m predicting an exciting season for Villa. It’s in Smith’s mantra to go toe-to-toe with teams and, with the likes of the brilliant Jack Grealish floating and creating things in the middle, they’ll be a tough team to play against. The club have also confirmed 30,000 season tickets for the new campaign - a modern-day record - such is the demand for bums on seats. Expect drama.