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Big spending increases the scrutiny at Aston Villa

One thing Villa can’t be accused of this month is being indecisive.

New loan signing Philippe Coutinho (Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images).
New loan signing Philippe Coutinho (Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images).

Less than two weeks into the transfer window, and the club have already secured two major signings, including the most high-profile in their history with the loan capture of Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona.

The arrival of Lucas Digne from Everton, meanwhile, means Villa’s last four permanent signings have been for fees of £25million or more.

For supporters it is exciting, delivering another reminder of the ownership’s serious and lofty ambitions. Whether it will deliver success, of course, we will have to wait and see. There are no guarantees.

The phrase ‘statement signings’ has been used fairly to describe some of Villa’s recent deals but with that comes pressure to deliver some statement results.

Steven Gerrard’s team got close to one at Manchester United on Monday night but as the head coach later noted, were not quite close enough. They get another chance when they host the Red Devils tomorrow evening in a match which could be pivotal in setting up the second half of the season. The current six-point gap to the top eight (the club’s stated aim at the start of the campaign) is hardly insurmountable but Villa will still have to go some to make up the ground.

Barely two months into the job, Gerrard deserves a decent level of slack but big spending does quickly increase the scrutiny. Both Coutinho and Digne were his choices and should make Villa a better team but every signing carries an element of risk and while money typically talks, there are exceptions.

What is noticeable is Villa’s shift away from targeting young and hungry players to signing more experienced, established stars. Their last three arrivals have been aged 29, 29 and 28 respectively.

For those who chronicle West Midlands football, meanwhile, what strikes most is the contrast in approach compared to Wolves. Both clubs have a stated aim of cracking English football’s elite but have different plans of how to do it. Finding out which enjoys the most success promises to make the next few years particularly fascinating.

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