Last summer Aston Villa were staring at potential turmoil. Embroiled in financial trouble, the club failed to achieve promotion and were at risk of losing their coveted star Jack Grealish.
To see Villa now back in the Premier League just a year on is incredible.
During the reign of Tony Xia, Villa’s financial situation became dire. The mass spending on player wages in the Championship just hadn’t paid off.
Therefore, the arrival of Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris was a welcome relief.
In July 2018, they essentially saved the football club. Without the American and Egyptian businessmen, Villa would have been in deep trouble.
The reality is that it’s incredibly unlikely they’d now be sitting among the big boys of English football again. But here we are. One of the oldest football clubs in England, first established in 1874, are back arguably where they belong.
Gone are the days of Xia’s spending. The club are now lead by individuals who seemingly have their act together. Considering what’s gone before, it’s a stark contrast.
However, Villa still need to throw caution to the wind, particularly this summer.
Edens and Sawiris, alongside CEO Christan Purslow, will be eager to display their financial muscle over the transfer window. Considering they’re now preparing for life in the Premier League, it would be understandable if they decided to throw some big sums of money at players.
In recent times they’ve been targeting Brentford’s Neal Maupay in a deal which could cost £20m whilst Joe Lolley is expected to receive a bid of £10m.
Maupay, in particular, represents a large deal but signing those types of players could prove pivotal despite the fees.
What the club can’t afford to do though is fall into the trap Fulham did. After achieving promotion last season they spent over £100m. That was the first time a newly promoted side had ever spent nine figures over the course of a transfer window.
They brought in some highly regarded players, including Jean Michael Seri and Andre Schurrle, but it proved disastrous. Dean Smith’s men will have to spend this summer, there’s no question about that, but they’d be playing a considerably dangerous game if they were to do what the Cottagers did.
Fulham’s methods made a statement, but they brought in far too many players who simply weren’t prepared for life in the top-flight of English football.
If Villa were to follow this same model, then they’d be waving a swift goodbye to the Premier League. That’s why caution must be at the forefront of their minds during the off-season.
It would also suit Smith too. He’s used to working on tight budgets and did so to great effect at Brentford.
The former Bees manager signs players with scope to improve and this method would be of far greater benefit to Villa. In signing Maupay and Lolley, he’d have two players he can certainly develop further.
One is 22 and the other is only just entering his prime years. They’re key examples of the players the club must be looking at.
Completing shrewd deals should be the order of the day, not splashing over £100m on players who simply don’t cut it.
The fact this debate is even possible says something about just how far the Midlands side have come. The thought of spending £20m on a player during the final year of Xia’s reign would have been impossible.
Yet, Edens and Sawiris have worked wonders. They are the embodiment of how all good football owners should be.
Far too many in the modern game stand idly by and fail to invest in the club they have control over. You only need to look a matter of miles down the road to see the lack of investment West Brom owner Guochuan Lai has provided.
Villa, therefore, have everything to be thankful for. The fact they’re now back among the country’s elite is a testament to how hard they worked this season.
Back in March, they sat 13th in the Championship, not even in the frame for promotion. Their rise in recent months has been phenomenal.
They’ll go into this summer knowing they can keep hold of Grealish, the man the club is now built around.
If you told a Villa fan that was feasible just a year ago, they’d have laughed in your face. However, Edens and Sawiris have made that possible.