£28 million, I reckon that’s the rough cost of mid table ‘security’, it’s certainly the reported price tag for Mr Darren Bent, latterly of Harrods, now presumably the property of some exclusive boutique where you need to book in advance and someone called Tiggi Doublebarrelled-Notquiteatoff does all the leg work for you.
Of course, the real cost of mid-table security isn’t £28m, it’s much more than that and although things may have looked shaky for Villa at one point, the suspicion that their plight was temporary always existed. The phrase “too good to go down” may always be misplaced, but maybe “too expensive to go down” is a valid replacement and perhaps Villa, with the fourth highest net spend over the last five years, fit that bill.
That’s not a criticism of Villa, but it does provide useful context compared to Latics’ activity in the same period. Villa’s transfer balance runs to almost £78m over that time, whereas Latics are one of only four of the current Premier League clubs to pull in a profit on their dealings (a massive £1.7m). For even more context, that means Villa spend almost £16m more than Latics per season, before you even get to wages and other costs.
Nothing is absolute, though, the spending table throws up some interesting anomalies and Villa’s figures are skewed by the Bent deal, but there is a big difference between the two clubs even without and the point still remains that prolonged, substantial investment in the transfer market is likely, probably beyond what you get from television, to give you more stability in terms of your continued participation in the Premier League.
And from there the arguments are well rehearsed, with a growing realisation that Latics’ continued grasp on top flight football is getting financially more difficult with every arriving billionaire and hopefully that the methods of any given manager are almost secondary to the restriction this places on him. Basically, it’s a hard job, but someone has to do it.
Of course, hard doesn’t mean impossible and £16m per year difference or not, Saturday brings a game where Latics have a great deal to boost their confidence. I went through this, in more detail, earlier in the week but it’s worth pointing out that the only home team to win a home league tie between these two teams is Latics, which roughly translates to us never having lost a league game at Villa Park.
Form wise, things are easily balanced with the two teams sharing tenth place in the form league. Latics’ recent away form hasn’t been great, but when you consider that their last six games include fixtures against Liverpool, ManCity and Chelsea then a five point return is far from terrible. Villa’s last six home games have been arguably easier but their victory against ManCity a while back is a big contribution to their eleven point return.
I suppose that supports the bookies heavy favouring of Villa for this fixture, most having Villa as odds on, with Latics third behind the draw, but Latics haven’t been playing badly and should be in a position to give the Villains something to think about.
A lot will depend on Diame and N’Zogbia recover from the knocks sustained against Everton. N’Zogbia is the bigger worry because of the effect on moral that might accompany the absence of the team’s main creative force. I’ve argued before that missing the Frenchman might have a positive effect on team play, forcing those that are left to find new ways of attacking. That turned out to be nonsense at the time and now isn’t a good time to be testing these theories out.
Villa are chasing a top half finish to banish their early season woes and leave a platform to build on next season and their wealth of attacking options would be a concern to any defence, let alone one that can look as fragile as Latics’ but, thankfully, collapses like the one we saw at Sunderland a couple of weeks back are now the exception, rather than the rule and with Watson and McCarthy set to play you would hope that the more solid version of Plan-B(obby) will be on show.
This is the bit where I would talk about our chances and, given the current situation, the impact that results elsewhere might have on the table, but, to be honest, I’m too nervous to. It’s going to be a tough game for us and no matter how much I want to say that Spurs’ quality and West Brom’s form will shine through against Blackpool and Wolves, I don’t want to tempt fate. So rather than waffle round for a bit before limping out like a damp squib it think it’s best to leave things with a “fingers crossed” and a big “KEEP THE FAITH”.
And if not, there’s always another day…
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