Dean Smith is targeting a ‘number 8’, with loan deals likely as Chelsea look to trim their oversized squad.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith is weighing up a loan bid for Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley, with the Villa Park manager prioritising a new number ‘8’, to replace the ‘Conor Hourihane’ position in the starting eleven as one of his final recruitment drives of the summer.
England international Barkley has been used as a substitute in both of Chelsea’s Premier League games this season, but it is thought that the midfielder would like more regular game time in an effort to push for a spot in Gareth Southgate’s EURO squad next year.
Chelsea are keen to ensure any of their players leaving on loan have their wages payed in full, and Barkley’s £120,000-a-week salary is posing an issue with Aston Villa reluctant to pay the full amount as they ramp up their wage structure this window with the new contracts for Jack Grealish, Tyrone Mings and Keinan Davis progressively increasing how much Aston Villa pay their players.
Should the side fail in their pursuit of Barkley, it is thought that Ruben Loftus-Cheek is another viable option for Dean Smith’s side – but a long injury list in the past could prove to be a turning point.
The club are only able to sign one of the Chelsea players due to Premier League rules which state that a club can only loan one player from a league rival.
Loftus-Cheek started in Chelsea’s 3-1 win against Brighton in their opening game, but was left out of the squad for tonight’s Carabao Cup game against Barnsley.
Dean Smith is thought to be interesting in two more signings, with one a central midfielder and the other thought to be a forward. On the other end, the club are also keen to move a number of players away from the club, including Mbwana Samatta – who is poised to join Fenerbahce tomorrow, as well as Henri Lansbury, Bjorn Engels, Orjan Nyland and Lovre Kalinic. It is also thought that Frederic Guilbert could leave on loan to gain more experience.
“I’m still discussing with Christian and Johan about getting some more players in, but we’ll have to see,” Smith said earlier in the week, just a few days after the club signed Bertrand Traore from Lyon.
Barkley and Loftus-Cheek would provide solid options in the midfield, and allow Smith to utilise Hourihane as he seems to see him – as a squad player.