Express & Star

Dean Smith: Aston Villa have started moving in the transfer window

Dean Smith claims the ‘wheels are in motion’ for Villa’s transfer window plans as the club prepare to step up their summer business.

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith

Villa are still to make their first signing of the window with Brentford striker Ollie Watkins their No.1 attacking target.

Smith has revealed he delayed his holiday during the brief break between seasons to sit down with new sporting director Johan Lange and devise a strategy for the crucial weeks ahead, as Villa seek the signings to help them consolidate in the Premier League.

Asked about transfer business, Smith replied: “Wheels are in motion. That is one of the reasons I wanted to stop back and sit down with Johan to strategically plan what we were going to do.

“Nobody is satisfied with finishing 17th in the league – owners, supporters, players and coaching staff. We need to improve the squad. We improved after the lockdown and Project Restart and we need to improve again because we don’t want another season of struggle.”

Smith remains keen on securing a deal for Watkins after he plundered 26 goals in the Championship last season.

The 24-year-old’s ability to play out wide is of particular appeal and it is thought Villa also want to bring in a more traditional centre-forward to bolster a forward line which struggled for goals after the season restarted.

Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard has been linked, though it is believed Smith would ideally prefer a player with Premier League experience.

Midfield, right-back and goalkeeper are the other areas in which Villa are primarily looking strengthen, with the backing of billionaire owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens potentially giving them an advantage in a window when many rivals are feeling the effects of the pandemic.

Villa spent more than £140m on a necessary squad overhaul during the last two transfer windows but Smith believes the task of integrating players this time around, when the focus is on quality rather than quantity, will be nowhere near as challenging.

“It will be easier this season,” he said. “Last season was tough, we got promoted through the play-offs with four players who were on loan, while six or seven players left at the end of the season as well.

“There was always going to be a big turnaround and integrating 12 players is very tough to do.

“This year we are not making as many changes so the integration should be a lot quicker.”