“I’m staying at the football club and I can’t wait for the start of the Premier League season", declared Aston Villa’s now former captain Fabian Delph only a week ago. What a difference a week can make.
Following the sale of Delph, and the likely sale of Christian Benteke, Aston Villa’s Premier League status may well be in jeopardy before the season has even started. The dramatic turn of events in the last week has left many Villa fans dumbfounded, exasperated at the prospect of life without two key spearheads at the forefront of the Villa squad.
The sale of Delph shall come as a bitter blow to Villa fans, worsened by the apparent U-turn taken by their ex-captain only a week ago in the face of Manchester City’s advances. The fact that Delph, the iconic captain, is not the loyal warrior fans thought he was has come as a huge surprise to the club's faithful.
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Delph’s departure had confined Villa to misery. Of course Delph is a talented player in his own right, and at the age of only 25 a huge prospect for both club and country. However Villa have not only lost their midfield star, they have lost their leader, their warrior and more generally, their faint idyllic idea that loyalty rather than money is still prominent in sport.
Delph’s departure has left Villa’s already weak midfield on the brink of collapse, as their spine of Guzan, Vlaar, Delph and Benteke erodes.
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Benteke to follow
More pragmatically, Villa have, or are about to lose their big Belgian target-man in Benteke. Benteke’s loss will be easier to take for Villa fans, as he made no secret of his desire to leave and has flirted with the possibility of a move to another club since he was purchased by the club back in 2012.
Nevertheless, Benteke’s imminent £32.5 million move to Liverpool negates genuine quality from the Villa squad. Benteke was key to Villa’s survival to last season, and without him, and captain Delph, Villa are likely to struggle to survive next season.
In the sales of Delph and Benteke, Villa have lost their spine, their flair and more importantly their quality going forward. Whilst they shall have a significant wodge of cash in their place, such key components are difficult to replace, as Liverpool themselves found last season.
However there is some half-hearted reasons for optimism around Villa Park. Southampton were tipped to struggle last season, yet finished a highly seventh place. If Villa recruit as well as the Saints did, they may stand a chance of survival. But this is only an if, conditional on what Villa spend their money on.
For the time being, Aston Villa are in a state of crisis, void of leadership and quality.