U23 graduates and January Signings: Profiling Dean Smith’s New Players.

There’s some new faces at Bodymoor Heath after Villa signed two strikers, a midfielder and fast-tracked two of their brightest products into first-team training, here’s a quick preview of what we can expect from them.

Isaac Vassilev is an exciting hybrid between a ball carrying CM/AM in the vein of Brozovic and a physical striker in the vein of a young Falcao. He was given the chance to lead the line earlier in the season and his lack of a start against Watford shocked many fans. Douglas Luiz and Vassilev were key in Villa collecting four points against some of their most bitter relegation rivals. He’s going to be key in providing competition in training and pushing for a start as either a left interior or playing next to Samatta. I can see Vassilev claiming a place over Borja Baston or Kienan Davis who has since picked up an injury. Isaac has motivation to perform since he’s young and has all the potential to be a player for the USMNT in several positions.

19/20 Potential: 7.0/10

Mungo Bridge is a dominant 19 year old CB in the vein of our very own Tyrone Mings, he impressed me during Villa’s 1-0 home defeat against WBA U23s and has been recently given the opportunity to play for the first-team in training sessions, not long after being made the captain of the youth side. He was key in the decision to let James Chester leave the club, this means that Villa can continue to play their back three whilst increasing the value of one of their brightest products…something they failed to do with Easah Suliman. I can see Mungo starting over Kortney Hause if he can recover his form or at the very least prove his value in training ahead of a loan move to the Championship or League One.

19/20 Potential: 5.5/10

Borja Baston is a signing from Swansea, some looked at him as their 4th choice striker. Dean Smith has his team following in the veins of the moneyball approach saw value in signing him on loan. Borja was on great form at the start of the season, gaining MOTM shouts for his goals against Birmingham, Preston, Hull and QPR before he was taken out of the team of Sam Surridge. Speaking to a Swansea ST holder, he told me that Borja had his share of poor games but he was often starved of service with key player Daniel James departing for Man United. I think it’s very possible we can see a Samatta and Borja front two.

19/20 Potential: 7/10

Aly Samatta has already proved a handful and scored a goal against Bournemouth. His debut against Leicester was poor for his standards, but another two world-class performances from Grealish and you can see what having a quality #9 in fixed positions can do for his game. Samatta also has 1 goal, when he signed i targeted him with needing 6 goals and 2 assists for him to have had enough influence in order to keep us in the PL, he’s already well on his way even given the poor result. It can’t be overstated how key he’ll be if we are to stay up, and he has a big chance against Tottenham.

19/20 Potential: 9/10

Danny Drinkwater is a new signing from Chelsea, and whilst i do not rate him as a player, just like Micah in 16/17, He’ll be key in providing experience at training for our young midfielders. He’ll allow Smith to play Douglas Luiz in as many games as possible and with Nakamba’s horrific performance against Bournemouth, it’s not out of the question that we’ll see a Drinkwater/Luiz pivot at times. I do believe that he’ll provide enough squad depth to justify his signing in the end. He’ll also definitely be one of the most determined players in the squad, after poor performances for his last two clubs.

Season Potential: 5.5/10

My thoughts:

In my opinion, a switch to 3-5-2 is not only inevitable, but the only route to survival. The new players signing and progressing through the academy will all be key if we are to do it. Dean Smith must quickly analyse his forwards in training and decide what the best striker partnership we have available is.

Playing with two of Vassilev, Samatta, Borja or Trezeguet with Grealish playing advanced from a more central position instead of coming in from wide will be key in pulling this off.

Guilbert and Targett provide enough width already, so it’ll be an easy transition from El Ghazi taking on his FB and crossing the ball and Trezeguet cutting inside to playing a more transition based game, rather than holding the ball in wide positions and risking isolating Grealish.