With a month and a half until the January window, the transfer gossip is beginning to pick up. After a frustrating start to the season Aston Villa fans will be hoping for big signing or two to secure their Premier League safety. That may well happen, but the odds are that many of the names being thrown about at present will never pull on a Villa shirt.
Given that they are responsible for 47% of the non-adult internet's traffic, it's little surprise that the first transfer rumors of winter have begun cropping up already. While there's substance to some (Chelsea's impending signing of young Brazilian right back Wallace being a prime example,) transfer rumors in November ought to be treated with an even greater degree of skepticism than transfer rumors at any other time of year. But ignoring them entirely is a bit difficult to do, even for those of us that desperately wish that we could. And that's especially true given two of the more common names connected to Aston Villa these days: Saint-Étienne striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ajax midfielder Siem de Jong.
Aubameyang is one of Ligue 1's emerging stars, a skillful striker with excellent speed and a penchant for scoring spectacular goals. Based on what I've seen of him, he looks like the kind of player everyone was hoping Gabriel Agbonlahor would become, with the distinct advantage of being three years younger. De Jong has become more of a household name over the past month or so after putting in a few excellent performances in the Champions League, including a brace against Manchester City at the Etihad earlier in the week. A truly complete midfielder with excellent vision, a wicked shot and the ability to read the game in both phases, he'd walk into Villa's midfield and become its best player almost instantly.
It's quite easy to see why fans of any team in Aston Villa's position would be excited about the prospect of signing such players. Unfortunately, the same could be said of a very large number of other teams in significantly better positions than Aston Villa. It's easy to see Siem de Jong making a move away from Ajax in the January window, but after the way he's performed this season it's hard to believe that Villa would be anywhere near the most attractive option. Even if no other clubs place a bid, would Aston Villa really be a step up from Ajax at this point in time? Aubameyang looks less likely to command serious attention in January, but if he continues to play the way he has so far this season he'll be near the top of the list for a lot of clubs come August. Were I in his shoes (or those of his agent) I'm not sure I'd do anything rash in the winter at the risk of missing out on a bigger move in the summer.
The reality is that Aston Villa just isn't an especially attractive destination for big names from the second tier of Europe's leagues right now. Stranger things than present-day Villa landing emerging stars have happened (I still can't believe that Southampton managed to sign Gaston Ramirez) and perhaps I'm mis-reading the level of interest in players of de Jong and Aubameyang's stature. But I'm reasonably certain that Christian Benteke is a much better indication of the kind of player likely to make a move to Aston Villa in January. The good news is that there are players of Benteke's caliber all over the world that could really help this club a great deal and would likely be very interested in doing so. The better news is that Paul Lambert seems to be quite good at finding them.