Just a few years ago, when Villa were relegated to the Championship – it was cited that this was because of poor manoeuvres in the transfer market, an influx of French speaking players, and a lack of core British values in the dressing room.
Fast forward to today, and the dressing room is incredibly different. It’s full of players who are British, have British connections but play for a different national team, or have played the majority, if not all of their career in the United Kingdom.
Players like Idrissa Gana Gueye, Jordan Veretout and Carlos Gil all bought something to the squad – and granted, once we were down none of them wanted to play for us, but they offered something to the squad that the likes of Mile Jedinak and Glenn Whelan don’t.
If we take a look at the squad that we took to Brentford, every single player in the first eleven was born in a home nation other than Mile Jedinak – who has spent the vast majority of his career in England.
Even the bench was a British man’s wet dream, with only Birkir Bjarnason and Elmohamady being the ‘foreigners’ to the side. And even with that, Elmohamady has spent much of his career in England too.
So in just a few years, we’ve gone from having a squad filled with too many foreigners, paired by the fact they could speak similar languages and thinking that they could gel, to having a dressing room full of players from the home nations and at that, a predominantly older one.
I don’t think one team outside of the Premier League or Championship has an entire squad filled with these kinds of players. Even the likes of Brentford had players like Spanish midfielder Sergi Canos, who bossed their midfield last night.
Whilst we still have Pierluigi Gollini and Carles Gil on our books, they’re away on loan and not useful to us.
Take a look at Wolves. A squad filled with foreign talent, with a core British back-bone with the likes of John Ruddy, Matt Doherty, Connor Coady, Danny Batth and Barry Douglas all regularly performing in their match day squad. Then there are the likes of Diego Jota, Ruben Neves, Ivan Cavaleiro and Leo Bonatini running the show.
There’s no creativity in the way we play, which can either be placed down to poor management or poor player choice – but that’s half the reason we’re not winning. Our only truly creative player in the first eleven yesterday was Jack Grealish – and considering Bruce said he was going to work his squad around him at the start of the season – we’re not playing to Jack’s strengths.
It just seems like we can’t find a good balance. We’ve been bad with a squad full of foreigners and we’ve been bad with a squad full of home-grown talents. We need to find a middle ground.