The countdown is on as Aston Villa look to complete as many as three deals before next week’s transfer deadline (January 31, 11pm). Unai Emery is targeting an experienced striker to replace Danny Ings who left for West Ham while “a specific winger” is also desired. There’s also the pursuit of Marseille’s Matteo Guendouzi with Emery keen on a reunion with his former Arsenal midfielder.
??????utv??????: Do you think Emery will get a greater say in transfers going forward and what do you think this will mean for Lange. Understand Duran wasn’t Emery’s player?
Ashley says: Yes. That’s exactly it. Alex Moreno was his first. Guendouzi is now his top target. Emery is still working with Lange, of course, hence the Duran deal while sporting director has been tasked with drawing up a shortlist of winger and striker options. Emery works together with Villa’s recruitment team and feeds them specifics re what he wants/type of player/their qualities. Nassef Sawiris has said to Purslow that Emery should be given a more hands-on role than previous managers.
Graylittledeehan: Good morning Ash, if some of the transfer prices quoted are fairly accurate (£30M plus for Guendouzi; £40M plus for Williams jr etc) how are we with regard to financial fair play?
Ashley says: Villa are mindful of FFP, Christian Purslow said so himself. But the big £100m sale of academy graduate Jack Grealish back in 2020 has gone a long way to keeping FFP officials off Villa’s backs. Villa have been recuperating fees – albeit small – for the likes of Trezeguet, El Ghazi, Ings… so they’re selling players and getting players off the wage bill which means Villa can act more freely when it comes to big-money signings. Villa proving they’re good operators. I’m not sure how Chelsea are getting away with what they’re doing!?!
Vfl: What’s your thoughts on Duran? Do you think he is gonna be very much part of the 1st team and get minutes quicker than we think? Also, could that be the reason the club is so calm about the striker situation? Obviously they won’t shout from the rooftops that he is gonna be this or that…
Ashley says: Got that Benteke/unknown about him. He’s trained with the first-team this week and again this morning. It’ll take him time to get up to speed but perfect time to do so now ahead of the next game. Hasn’t kicked a competitive ball since October. I’m really excited by him. And exactly that, Villa are calm because of Duran coming in. He’ll be pushing for his big Villa Park debut against Leicester. Emery would have had two weeks with him by then which is ideal.
Paul12344: With the squad already looking a bit thin to say the least, could we still see Nakamba and Augustinsson leave in the window? I guess Chambers will be kept now until the summer as a utility player? For some reason, although nervous about all those leaving, I have 100% trust in Emery which I cannot say for many years. UTV!!
Ashley says: Yes, those two players have been told to find new clubs regardless of Villa’s lack of depth. Still got Dendoncker as a back-up to Douglas/Kamara who, let’s face it, will start pretty much every game now until the end of the season. It’s not like we’re in the cups, either. Yeah, Chambers will remain as back-up unless anything drastically changes. I’m totally with you. Trust in Unai.
Godmcgrath: Do you know what the situation is with Matty Cash these last couple of games since the World Cup? It seems like Emery fancies Young as his first choice…
Ashley says: Matty Cash. Still got a future at Villa. Got told specifically that reports linking him with a move away/fallen out of favour/future at risk were wide of the mark. Like most, though, players’ futures under Emery will be assessed again in the summer. As for Young, he’s been incredible and impossible to drop, in my opinion.
Conavfc: Do you think the interest in Ismaila Sarr has gone now? Not really linked too much now and quite surprising considering he had a good WC and can play up top or on the wing so seems to fit the forward profile we’re after…
Ashley says: Yes, I do. Perhaps Emery doesn’t believe he fits into his way of playing. Could play as an unorthodox striker as well. I’m surprised that’s died down mate, I really am, especially given how close Sarr was to coming last summer.
Jack Miller: My question isn’t about transfers but the current squad. Watkins and Konsa in particular look to have grown a foot since Emery has come in. Is that a reaction to Emery or that the system with Gerrard had knocked their confidence. Also, what’s the latest on Mings’ contract? For me, he’s been one of the great buys for us in recent years as both a player and a man that I’m proud to have represent our club. Will they extend his deal?
Ashley says: A refreshing question Jack. Nice one. I think a bit of both. Both, like most, really struggled under Gerrard and his way of playing which was all too frantic and open. Emery is all about patience and control. Great little quote from Cash recently: “He tells us it’s a long game and to be patient. When you think of it, 90 minutes is a long time.” Just look at the patterns of play vs Southampton, in control, passing it. If it’s not on, we keep it. Players doing exactly what’s being asked. More of a structure. Mings = unreal. Kicked on massively. I’ll ask Emery/club about Mings’ contract stance next time mate. It’s something I’ve been meaning to chase.
Conavfc: Is there actually anything to the Nico Williams rumour? Villa seem to always do their business quietly and it rarely gets leaked but there’s rumours of actual wages etc which isn’t really too Villa-like. Is it just papers making it up as they know we’re after a pacey winger/forward?
Ashley says: The Daily Mail’s Dom King who broke the story is a top operator so there’s no smoke without fire. Williams Jr was linked with Villa and Emery at the start of the month but the reports via Spain didn’t pick up much traction. Emery knows all about the Williams brothers – they’re from just an hour away from Emery’s family home. Perhaps Villa showed interest, but the player rejected the chance to speak with Villa given he’s still so young and on his own journey at Bilbao and Bilbao officials leaked that information.
Trentaus: Any news on Dembele? If it’s only 3-5 mil worth just pay now. If something happens to Watkins or Bailey we are in big trouble up front. We need an experienced striker and I think Dembele can be that guy, probably a short term fix not a long term fix. Also, Guendouzi news is ramping up and I got a feeling that might happen now. Think Emery lost interest in McKennie. I’m also just wondering when’s the earliest time to buy a ticket to a Villa Park game? I’m coming over to watch Aston Villa vs Fulham in late April. Thanks.
Ashley says: Dembele, like you say, it would have happened by now. Reports from France yesterday outlined that now it’s perhaps a deal for the summer on a free. Yeah, Villa hopeful of Guendouzi. As for Villa games: get in touch with some Villa groups on Facebook. I think tickets come out a month before the fixture.
Damo51: I really do hope we get a striker in as Watkins needs backup. Emery has a plan on what he wants as he’s shipped players out. We must trust this manager and let him do what he’s got to do. Do you think, in time, he will build something special at Villa?
Ashley says: Villa won’t rush into signing a striker for the sake of it. It’s got to be the right one. It’s realistic that it could just be Watkins-Duran-Bailey for the run-in but Villa are working on getting a new No.9 to replace Ings. As for Emery, yeah, he’s completely galvanised the club from top to bottom. We could be looking at the man to finally emulate Brian Little and bring a major trophy back to Villa Park.
AVFCRegan: What’s the latest in B6? That bid for Williams was a bit out of the blue but the ambition is amazing! What’s the latest on incomings and outgoings and all players linked? Are any of them close or likely? What strikers are being talked about? How many can we expect to see come in and how likely is Guendouzi and Henrique to happen?
Ashley says: The wheels are in motion, as they say. Discussions ongoing for Guendouzi. Villa have also sounded out Henrique from Betis. Lange drawing up a shortlist of “experienced strikers” attainable this month. Tricky, though. Hopefully 2 come in mate. 3 would be the dream this month: CM, winger, ST. Villa won’t rush into any deal, though. Not keen on stockpiling players for the sake of it – a mistake they’ve made far too often in the past.
Wittongrassbanker: We’ve had a few false dawns down at the Villa over the years but I genuinely feel something really special is bubbling away. I do trust in UE 100% – but the only strange one to me is letting Archer out on loan. I get it that he needs experience or do you think UE just don’t fancy him as a player?
Ashley says: It could be the latter. I suspect he had taken a real confidence hit after being promised a fair crack and not getting it under SG. Archer perhaps didn’t do enough in training and the decision was made to ship him out and to bring in another following the sale of Ings. Can Villa get a deal done now? Let’s see.
MartinoAVFC10: Big week coming up I think but not sure how Emery will play it. Just a few weeks ago nobody would have mentioned Europe and now we are on the coattails of the teams in and around there. I for one would love to see the Guendouzi transfer happen, also really interesting with the Dembele one. Do you think these 2 are realistic for this window? A lot has been said about Dembele waiting until the summer. I just think we need someone extra up top this window in case of injuries and suspensions. Duran could be that man but, if Watkins has an injury, we are back to being short of numbers. How do you see these 2 playing out? UTV
Ashley says: Yes, both realistic, of course given Guendouzi’s relationship with Emery and Dembele’s contract situation and the fact he’s fallen behind main man Lacazette in Lyon’s pecking order. Yes, colleagues in France suggesting Dembele and Villa are now happy to wait until the summer. Yeah, a big risk to go with Watkins and Duran for the run-in. Watkins has proven he’s durable, though, while there’s still options with Bailey/Buendia and perhaps Coutinho playing off a main No.9. Emery stressed to us reporters last week that he’s searching for a Danny Ings replacement but it must be the right player who’s the real deal. I think Guendouzi will happen, by the way. Let’s see. Dembele, you’d have thought, would have been done by now which makes you think…
Godmcgrath: Emery defo is building something special at Villa isn’t he.. What can you tell us about the Nico Williams rumours? Did he really turn us down flat or do you think he could end up joining in the next couple of days???
Ashley says: Lord Unai sure is. Nico Williams… Came from a really good journalist, Dom King, a solid operator. There was a report on Villa’s interest at the beginning of the month from a local paper in Spain which didn’t pick up much traction. I think what’s happened is Villa registered their interest, Bilbao spoke to the player, player not interested in leaving so soon in his Bilbao journey where he’s alongside his brother and Bilbao leaked it back to the media – hence yesterday’s reports of £45m turned down plus that £120k-a-week salary. I think Villa have moved on now. Henrique at Betis is a real possibility. A chain of communication has already been opened as well given the deal to bring in Moreno. Betis and Villa worked well together.
Breslin: Got to admit I’m getting nervous as the end of the window approaches. The squad is looking a bit threadbare. Are we really going for the players mentioned in the media? Will they wait until the summer if they don’t get who they want? Will we see pointless squad fillers? Will we see some surprises? What does your gut tell you?
Ashley says: I think we’re all a little nervous but we’ve got to trust Unai with this. He’s green-lighted the outgoings deeming them not good enough for him and what he wants. Villa working so hard now to bring 2/3 in before the deadline. Guendouzi, Villa pushing strongly for him. Henrique at Betis and Dembele at Lyon… will we get some surprises? Hard to say with the way Villa operate, I’ve got to admit! Villa won’t be signing players just to fill the squad, though, Emery has stressed that to me.
Lymelaney: Exciting times at B6, and we’ve defo got the right man at the helm. How many years has it been since we’ve had a manager this good?! O’Neill maybe? Anyway, really excited by the linked names and, if we pull off two out of three, we’ll be rocking. Can see Villa being a force in the years to come as we move forward. How do you see the rest of the season going buddy? I can see us nicking a Euro spot for sure..
Ashley says: O’Neill in his pomp, perhaps! Dean did a brilliant job in the short time he had. Yeah – we’re pushing upwards now and giving it a right go. Emery built this newfound togetherness and gritty spirit. The players have all bought into it. The fans are right behind it too. It’s a little like what’s happened at Newcastle in a way. Momentum is massive at the moment. A couple more to come before next week’s deadline should shape us up nicely for the run-in. Unhappy players off the books as well. It’s all so positive. European spot? We’ve given ourselves a chance!
ZLP: Are Villa interested in Luiz Henrique? How likely is that one to happen?
Ashley says: Villa are in discussions with Betis re his availability. Nothing more than that at this stage. Hard to determine how likely. Still a raw talent having only arrived in Europe last summer. The Brazilian is valued at €50m.
The Minstral: It all makes interesting reading but, until the talk becomes fact, it’s just talk.
Of course we would all be happy if it happens, but the way the media plays out these transfer windows with rumour and hearsay, it doesn’t instil much faith in the reader. If it happens, great, but until it does, it’s still just talk.
Ashley says: I hear what you’re saying. I’m not a fan of gossip or hearsay. It’s not done until the player is holding a Villa shirt at Bodymoor! It’s clear Unai Emery wants Guendouzi, he namechecked him last week so it’s all about can Villa get this deal done. I’m here as the middleman between the club/manager and the fans, if you like. It’s my job to chase up reports and add more meat to the bones, as it were, or say they’re completely rubbish. I think we’re in for an exciting end to the transfer window.
AaronT77: Another dogged and determined win on Saturday – I know most fans would love to see wins with a lot of panache but sometimes there is something satisfying about winning 1-0 and showing grit and heart? Obvious focus is the remaining days of the transfer window – I’d love to see 3 new players in the obvious positions of CM, winger and striker given our outgoings and where Emery has seen our priorities since day one. Do you think 3 incomings is realistic? These last 24 hours have seen some new and surprising names mentioned – Nico Williams and Luiz Henrique – do you think we are in for a shock or two and had you heard any rumours of these prior to yesterday?
Ashley says: Grinding out a 1-0… A sign of a good team, that, plus the togetherness is there for all to see. Those are the 3 Villa are working on, spot on. It will be tough, what, with six days to go now. Confident of 2/3 happening so we’ll see. Luiz Henrique and Nico Williams were linked with Villa at the start of the month via reports in Spain but they went cold. As for shocks, I’m sure Lange will have one or two up his sleeve. Emery has a big say in transfers as you’ve probably gathered.
Jim_147: Guendouzi can wait until the summer if necessary, maybe a deadline day signing. The focus now must be on getting a 9 and a winger, without those, our Europe push is over.
Ashley says: Possibly, Emery wants him badly. I can see it rumbling on right up until the deadline knowing Marseille will try everything to keep their main man. Yep. Emery wants Ings replacement and an “experienced striker” as he tells us reporters. He’s still after that “specific winger” he desires with Villa now moving for Luiz Henrique of Real Betis.
JohnOHara8: 1. Think we are going to get Guendouzi and what a coup would this be? Almost another Kamara quality-wise but further forward?
2. Striker? Dembele or is there another quality striker available that we have not heard yet? and who’s a realistic chance this Jan?
3. Specialist Winger – ? A few names have been rumoured the last couple of days, any real word on these but who’s a realistic chance to sign them this Jan?
4. Any word on a no.2 GK as I have lost all faith in Olsen after the many games which he let in goals. The Stevenage near post from distance was a sin, it really was. Keepers should not get beat at the near post full stop but this was a serious error at any level. Unforgivable in my eyes unfortunately. what’s your thoughts?
Ashley says: 1. Likelihood of big Matteo… I’d say 70 per cent sure at the moment. Marseille will dig their heels in so it all depends how hard Villa push for him. Think he’d be a really good addition. Still 23 and bags of experience already. Very tenacious and a threat with his runs going forward. Can play in one of Emery’s attacking roles out wide too.
2. Dembele’s the only one at the moment but, like Duran, Villa could spring a surprise with this one. Emery wants an experienced striker but only if the right one is available.
3. Luiz Henrique, Emery and his staff like him.
4. GK department – and specifically No.2 – will be looked at in the summer.
PerthVillan: Why is it that a player who was bought last season for 11 mil (Henrique) is now worth 53 mill? The football world has gone crazy. Dembele would be a great buy I reckon, not sure about Deulofeu. Is he worth the money? I keep going on about a creative midfielder – who do you reckon would fit the bill?
Ashley says: Yeah, Dembele’s situation and the deal there is a no brainer but there appears to be a stumbling block. It’s gone quiet all of a sudden. Prices are inflated this month, you’re right, because teams don’t want to be weaker for their respective run-ins and the time to bring in a replacement is limited. Creative midfielder… tough to say. Really intrigued by this Guendouzi situation. Let’s see what plays out.