I have been following this blog for a couple of years but have never submitted a post before today and I'm sending this in because there is an important point I feel is being missed in the discussions during this particular transfer window.
From the start of next season, Premier League clubs will be limited to a squad of 25 players. So, criticism of the Villa squad, based on comparisons with other clubs who have used close to or more than 30 players a season, becomes irrelevant. From now on, no team can use that many players. It no longer matters that we don't have 30 "senior" players ourselves.
And what will happen at football clubs who do have 30-35 well-paid senior players on their books? In previous seasons, a manager will always have been able to "promise" any number of fringe players the chance of a few games a season and encourage them to stay. That isn't possible now.
The day after the transfer window shuts, a number of senior players at clubs throughout the league will have realised they will not be involved at all. Hardly the makings of stability and harmony at a football club. From that point of view, I'm happy we are in the position we are in terms of squad size.
But my main point is this: Surely this new situation will affect the thinking and actions of managers, players and agents alike? And shouldn't we therefore take these new circumstances into account when we discuss, criticise, speculate and judge during the summer?
Looking at the current squads in the Premier League, and considering which players were involved in matches last season, it should be quite easy to predict where player movement will occur (as a direct result of the 25 player squad restrictions - including the fact that no more than 21/25 can be older than 21).
If, for the sake of argument, a "balanced" squad would include 3 GK, 8 Def, 9 Mid, 5 Strikers, then you can guess which clubs are going to be putting players up for sale at some point during the summer. The problem is knowing which players, and when.
And from a manager's perspective their is no reason to name your squad of 25 until the last minute. You'd want to see the results of pre-season training/contract discussions/physiotherapy before deciding who's going to "be on the plane", as it were.
Infact, you don't even have to name 25. You can name 24 and leave room to sign a high profile free agent who has been told post-deadline that he won't be involved at another club.
From the players' point of view, Premier League quality players may not want to risk being told they'll be sitting in the stands until 2011 no matter how they perform in training and regardless of who gets injured or suspended (unless 2 of 3 keepers are out).
But, when considering moves away from their current clubs, players must now also take into account the likelihood of actually getting into another team's 25. It's no longer just about "will they buy me and give me a contract?", its about getting named in the 25 too.
The whole thing will turn the transfer window into a waiting game like never before. And it's not just about the "knock-on effect" between clubs, there's now going to be a knock-on effect within clubs.
I believe, therefore, that it is inevitable that there will be relatively little movement during the next few weeks, and that alot more than usual will happen during the last few days and hours of the window. Something that O'Neill seems to prefer anyway.
Maybe we will be grateful for that this year. My feeling is that our club and the management are well-suited and well-placed to deal with the changes about to be made to the rules, and the effects the new rules will have on the transfer window.
What about the players we have?
Are we really that short of players (as has been pointed out many times in forums) despite the new 25 player rule? Remember, comparisons with squads of 30-35 are irrelevant now.
Looking at the squad that ended last season, the only positions we arguably have to fill this summer (if you agree that 3+8+9+5 constitutes a balanced squad) are one midfielder and one striker. Then it will be all about replacing what we sell (or have already released), or selling what we no longer have room for.
This is the reason I don't agree with the "sell to buy" theories that are doing the rounds either. We've got 25 places, we need to plan properly. That's all I think it is. And it must surely be easier to get a new player to sign if we can show him that we've sold a player first to make room in the squad?
Ofcourse, if we ended the summer having to submit a squad of 23 or 24, because of poor transfer dealings, then that would and should be criticised. But to end a transfer window with more than 25 first team players must no longer be seen as a sign of "strength in depth". From now on, that's just pure waste of money.