This year The Premier League have outdone themselves and managed to sell the TV rights to next seasons Premier League games for a staggering amount of money, an amount which will cost 3 unfortunate teams around 60 million pounds this summer when they suffer relegation to The Championship. Fans saying they cannot wait for the 'bubble to burst in football' I can't agree with you more - however it is not happening this summer with the fee's and ludicrous amounts of money only increasing in 2013.
What this means for the three unfortunate clubs that face relegation is that they will not only have current players clamouring to get back into the Premier League - as these increased fees will certainly be finding their way into players' pockets with increased wages and not into the fans' pockets with reduced costs - but also that their would-be rivals in Premiership will have a considerable amount more money to spend in the next 12 months than they do (and even more if the clubs cannot win instant re-promotion - a much harder task than is expected, with Birmingham, Blackpool, Blackburn, Wolverhampton and Bolton all finding themselves in the bottom half of The Championship at the moment). All this makes this January window possibly the most important January window for a long time.
Clubs such as QPR will no doubt invest heavily as Harry Redknapp aims to make his mark on an over-paid and under performing squad at Loftus Road. There are already signs of a turnaround with positive results from both Chelsea and Tottenham. The question of QPR's large investment is more a matter of 'when' than 'if' as relegation could cripple a club where players such as Julio Cesar expected to fight for Europe this season rather than relegation.
Southampton's - who have a game in hand on their relegation rivals - capture of £12m Gaston Ramirez shows the Saints are not afraid to dive into the market if they see a good player they can take on board. Whilst Alan Pardew's Newcastle have already secured Mathieu Debuchy and Loic Remy, another two outstanding coup's for the Magpies who still have Yohann Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa to return from injury. This is not a squad that will be fighting relegation come March despite their ridiculous poor form (and no away wins) this season. Martin O'Neill's Sunderland have also dipped into the market for N'Diaye and are also reportedly battling it out with neighbours Newcastle for the capture of Toulouse's midfield warhorse Moussa Sissoko. Even Reading have the signature of Daniel Carrico, the former Sporting Lisbon captain.
Curiously then, after a £20m summer spending spree that Aston Villa have yet to dip into the market. Lerner's expenditure however, despite the large looking number, was the bare minimum the Villa squad required. A small, young, inexperienced squad at the start of summer somehow managed to come out the other side younger and less experienced. Which would be fine. Except it is the quality of the squad that is the problem.
Skip back three years ago and the Villa squad reads like a dream compared to nowadays, particularly in midfield where players such as Gareth Barry, Stiliyan Petrov, James Milner, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing ran rampant to now be replaced by midfielders who are caught in a persistent no mans land.
'Midfield playmakers' Ashley Westwood, Barry Bannan, Fabien Delph, Karim El-Ahmadi and Stephen Ireland make up the Villa midfield. And those players all have one thing in common, they are known for their passing skills and nothing else. The strength and defensive nous previously offered by Barry and Petrov, the undying engine and work rate from James Milner and the get-up-off-your-seats action from Ashley Young - is all missing. And perhaps the most worrying thing for Villa is that a team with 5 playmakers in the midfield - can't string more than a couple of passes together. A team of 'creative' players that can't create a thing.
Former Crewe captain Ashley Westwood joined the club in the summer and has looked by far Aston Villa's best midfield player this season - bizarre then that Paul Lambert insists upon substituting him at any given opportunity. The only midfielder who can so far keep the ball and not lose possession. He is not a strong midfielder but with him on the pitch vs Chelsea, Tottenham and Wigan this christmas we only conceded 3 goals. Compared to 12 without him. The signings made by Lambert this summer (by and large) have been positive. Christian Benteke, Matthew Lowton, Ron Vlaar and the aforementioned Westwood have been stellar in the majority of their performances this season. So why isn't Lerner entrusting more of these to be made? These players are not the problem, it is the ones that were already at the club causing the majority of the issues.
Other than just the midfield Aston Villa's squad just lacks any kind of quality. Yes it is young, yes it needs more experience and an experienced Centre Back and Defensive Midfielder are a must for Villa in January. But one must also look at the quality of players. 17 year old Luke Shaw looked a revelation for Southampton until his injury in Saturday's game between the two clubs, whilst 22 year old Joe Bennett looked appalling during Villa's 3-1 defeat to League 2 Bradford. Sometimes players are not good enough and whilst Bennett and El-Ahmadi have shown flashes of potential quality it is not enough and it will not be enough to keep Villa in the league.
When you look at Villa play for even just 90 minutes it is clear where the issues lie. A lack of quality and experience in the defence causes horrific errors in every single game, the same is said for the midfield. Perhaps these under performing playmakers could perform better at what they do best if they weren't being asked to try and be strong defensive midfielders too? But aside from the negatives, if you watch Villa you also see the potential throughout the team. The 3-1 win at Liverpool this season shows there is potential there. Christian Benteke, Andi Weimann, Matt Lowton, Ashley Westwood and Nathan Baker are some huge positives for the Claret and Blue army this season and some good, smart purchases could completely turn the club around. These players by themselves can not keep Villa up, these are the players that should be developing at the club with quality dotted around them to help them learn from their mistakes. However, at the moment these players are being relied upon to BE those experienced, calm pro's. They are expected to make up for the frailties of their team mates. Frankly, it is not fair on them.
Another - much needed - investment of £20million could keep this club in the Premier League at a time where failure to hold onto your Premier League status WILL cost a club £60m this summer. It seems bizarre that with so many good purchases made under Lambert than the club would fail to spend this January. Lerner is toying with the future of the club for what must be pennies to a man who has recently sold his other sports team (The NFL's Cleveland Browns) for One Billion Dollars.
In my opinion £20m keeps us in the Premiership this year and effectively gives a return of £60m this summer. If Randy Lerner fails to deliver yet again, I am afraid he must go.