Manager Steve Bruce made his first incoming Aston Villa transfer official: by signing goalkeeper Sam Johnstone from Manchester United on loan.
No surprise here, Sam Johnstone is now a member of Aston Villa Football Club. It had been reported for weeks that Johnstone would be moving on-loan away from Old Trafford.
He told José Mourinho as much.
It turns out Steve Bruce was able to convince Johnstone regular first-team football would be best for him at age 23.
Where does this leave remaining Aston Villa goalkeepers? Pierluigi Gollini, 21, and the starter for much of the Championship season, seemingly drops off the bench completely after losing his gig to Mark Bunn three weeks ago.
Rumors originating from Italy (Gollini’s home) suggest Juventus and Inter Milan are weighing up bids in order to pry him away from Villa Park. Whether it is this January or next summer, Gollini will be moved if Steve Bruce does not believe in his potential.
But that’s not certain. Perhaps Bruce is eager for improvement to get back to the Premier League this season. He may feel the need to improve instantly for the remainder of the season is vital. A simple loan move would do that. After all, Johnstone is still contracted to Manchester United unless the two clubs come to an equitable settlement in the summer.
Veteran Mark Bunn, now 32, sees his contract expire this summer. One way Steve Bruce and staff could handle this is deploying Gollini as the number two ahead of Bunn.
That would signal to the young Italian that Bruce believes in him, just not enough play him in super-important league matches where the end goal is immediate promotion back to the Premier League.
If Bunn – who seemingly does not have a future at the club after this season – stays ahead of Gollini, that would probably signal the end of Pierluigi’s Villa career under Bruce.
If that should happen, Aston Villa will have zero senior goalkeepers going into next season aside from the injured Jed Steer (assuming Johnstone returns to United). Steer, though talented, tore his achilles which is a massive blow for a position that requires lateral explosiveness.
Perhaps Johnstone is the long-term answer for Aston Villa. Perhaps he remains part of Manchester United’s plans after this season.
It would be foolish for Villa to move Gollini if the situation is the latter. A tricky transfer window is ahead for owner Tony Xia.