Randy Lenner is adorable. Photo from avfc.co.uk.
Randy Lerner's been at Villa Park this past week, reassuring Martin O'Neill that he still has designs on making Aston Villa a top-four club. Villa fans had been nervous about their gaffer possibly being shown the door, but reading between the lines, it almost sounded as though MON was interviewing Lerner. He wanted to make sure Randy is committed to the continual improvement of the Villa.
What media outlets seized on, of course, were Lerner's words regarding the budget. He mentioned that the club might adopt a "sell-to-buy" policy--creating a bit of chaos in which everyone seemed to decide that we were going to sell the farm. However, Lerner also made a point of saying that he would be willing to spend the money if the correct opportunities arose.
What was most interesting to me, though, were Randy's words on spending indiscriminately. He noted that if simply spending money was all it took to create a team at the top, the composition of the Big 4 would be slightly different. A clear dig at Manchester City, but it's absolutely true. Throwing together a bunch of "big names" doesn't actually create a team that plays well together. Let's take Robinho, for one, as City paid $32.5 million for the Brazillian in 2008, and he's played 41 matches for the club and scored 15 goals--not horrible, but most City fans don't think he was worth the money. Add to that the fact that he desperately wanted to go back to Brasil, and you've got a failed chemistry experiment.
A plethora of factors are involved in creating a quality squad. The team needs to be able to work together, from the keeper communicating to his defenders to the strikers knowing where to find a cross from the midfielders. If a squad changes too much from season to season, it takes awhile for them to settle down and know how to play together. We see this in national teams all the time--one of the most obvious examples is the difference in Steven Gerrard's play from his club side to England (although that comparison might not be as apt this season).
While some might think Randy's words cautioning against lavish spending are simply a cop out on his part, I think it reflects very well on the club and Lerner's long-term investment in it. Villa actually have a system of player development. They target a player, do their best to bring him to the club, and then develop him--they don't go out and spend big bucks on older players whose style might not fit within the system. Villa have had PFA's Young Player of the Year two years running in Ashley Young and James Milner, and Gabby Agbonlahor was nominated last year as well. The rumors of clubs wanting to poach these players reflects well on our system--but an even better sign that our system is working is that we're not selling what we've created.
Our owner and our manager have a plan, and it seems to be working. We're not sniffing out flash. We aren't trying to get the players who have managed to ratchet up an inflated goal tally for one season at a mediocre club. Yes, we'd all like to see a few more goals scored, and would like to cover up some of the cracks that seem to appear when the Villa are tired or seem overwhelmed. But we're a ridiculously young club, and we are still maturing. Keeping the club together while bringing in just a few more dependable, solid players can undoubtedly create a squad that is worthy of playing Champions League football.
I'm not one for patience, but in this instance, patience is what we need. Now let's sit back and watch our club come together.