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Blog: Is Aston Villa Bent splash the first of Lerner's big cash?

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By John Baines - Football Correspondent

Thursday 20 January 2011

It’s no coincidence that the top wages and transfer fees are dominated by forwards. Goals win games and when in times of trouble a new striker is often sought to sharpshoot the issue away.

In parting with the best part of £20m on Darren Bent, Randy Lerner and Aston Villa have u-turned on the frugal and stone by stone progression they have preached since the Americans take-over.

Given their current predicament, you could argue that such prior measured means have recessed the team, yet after a trio of sixth place finishes prior to this campaign, one wonders what the situation would be had Martin O’Neil been granted such levels of spending afforded to Gerard Houllier.

The sum commanded for Bent has previously been layered across two or three positions on players who ultimately failed to deliver Villa’s aims of Champions League qualification.

With that in mind, it’s a polar shift of strategy for Lerner to commission a move which could double the clubs previous transfer record of £12m for Stewart Downing. It is also worth noting that Jean Makoun has arrived from Lyon for around £6m to bolster the midfield ranks.

Until Bent signed on the dotted line, Downing was the only player in the Villa squad who cost over £10m. That illustrates how restrained the Midlands outfit have been when purchasing targets. It was the clubs inability or reluctance to spend extra that so irked O’Neil to the point of resignation prior to the start of the season.

After seeing Tottenham and Manchester City lavishly spend their way past them, the futility of the situation has manifested itself in the performances of individuals and as a collective who have struggled to attain the levels of previous seasons.

By breaking from tradition, the Villa hierarchy are both admitting a real fear of relegation but also signalling future ambition and resource. Clearly O’Neil’s much stressed ideology that big money needs to be spent where necessary has struck a chord with Lerner whom must be alarmed at the depths Villa have plummeted to during an ever gradually declining 2010.

In procuring Bent, Gerard Houllier has armed himself with a player who has scored only one less goal than Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney since 2005. Given his limitations which have been exposed at international level, his domestic goal-scoring record is remarkable. 32 goals in 58 games since moving to Sunderland underlines the potential for goals. Barring his stumble at Tottenham, Bent has scored goals in abundance in predicaments not too dissimilar to the one Villa find themselves in now. Only out of the bottom three on goal difference, Houllier’s men are not even being talked about as ‘too good to go down’.

Whether Bent would have been prized away from 6th place Sunderland had he been on good personal terms on Wearside remains to be seen, yet his commitment to join Villa is not only borne out of a belief they will ultimately stave off the drop, but also of that they will soon return to the upper reaches of the Premier League table.

When prosing over a transfer such as this, the end question is whether the player can make the difference to justify the fee, and in Darren Bent’s case there is little to suggest he won’t be able to provide the amount of goals he’s been brought to bring.

In truth Villa have been requiring the elusive arch goal-getter since Dwight Yorke left. A host of names have come and gone and for tidy sums too, yet a striker of real match-winning potency has never come forward. As long as Bent doesn’t suffer from the jitters which stained his stay at Spurs, the protracted fee of potentially £24m will be money expensively well spent.

Inadvertently, Bent may well be the solution to Villa’s short and long term woes. In the immediacy his goals are supposed to alleviate the possibility of going down, but should his move be a success, he may provide the catalyst for Randy Lerner to finally armour his team with the necessary components to get where they want to go.

The ball and the money are in Lerner’s court, but the success of Darren Bent could well determine how much the American is prepared to speculate to accumulate.

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By Quanita on 27 August 2012 at 05:47

Forgot to say, I think the reason he chose Villa is buecase one of his relatives owns part of it (apparently), that should make them good for a few tax dodges then!

By John Baines on 24 January 2011 at 14:37

Villain - no, i'm not a villa fan and writing blogs on clubs you don't support does have its ups and downs. On one side i don't have the intricate knowledge of a supporter, but on the flip side i 'say what i see' and stand to be corrected by people who do actually know more than me. I take your point on board about the money O'Neil chose to spend on the types of players he chose toi spend it on. I suppose he's comfortable with a particular specification of player and has enjoyed a degree of success in management with such players, and you cannot deny using those types of players helped elevate villa from where they were pre to o'neill to where he got you. But please, if i may pose a few back to yourself....Lerner was never going to be an abramovich and between he and o'neill spent wisely enough to get you around the champions league places, but O'neill left five days before the start of the season having not bought anyone this summer. Surely not of his own choice? What happened there? Also, roughly per season, what has been your net spend under lerner, and lastly, hypotetically, where do you think you would be now if O'Neill had stayed, and where do you think you could/should have been with investment in the summer minus the milner money?

By Villan on 23 January 2011 at 19:50

John Baines - Not a Villa fan I take it, or you'd know more about the subject. Lerrner never turned off the spending tap but he sure as hell did the wages-for-non-playing-overpaid-triers tap. If O'Neill had moved them on, and there are many, he could have spent the money Houllier has now. The policy hasn't changed. The manager has. Carew, Davies, Shorey and Sidwell are off the wage bill and another batch will follow them soon. The money Milner has financed the majority of the purchases and the wages have just been transferred. Buying three players instead of one was O'Neills idea. He bought Harewood, Shorey, Davies, Knight, Warnock, Routledge(!), Sidwell, Beye, Luke Young and Cuellar for a total of 44 million. Perhaps if he'd bought four proper players for that he might still be manager. After all Young, Milner and Downing cost a total of 30 million and they were, and are, proper players. All financed by Lerner just as he is financing Houllier now. Lerner is to be praised for his consistency.

By John Baines on 22 January 2011 at 00:42

TJ - villa fan i take it? So what are Lerner's intentions then? Surely Villa on their own can't be that profitable in the short or long term for him to make significant money from the club, so whats the point of him being there? And certainly the only way it will improve is to concertedly chase the champions league golden goose - and that's far from financially foolproof option. Like i say, he's previously been reticent to spend big, if the bent deal is a success, depending on his intentions may he not be tempted to spend? probably not, so what is he aiming to achieve?

By TJ on 20 January 2011 at 17:26

Funny how you don't mention that the vast majority of that £18-24 million came from the James Milner deal, that Villa had left over from last summer. Its not a spending spree, he's no richer than before and he's actually spending LESS in net spend than he was in previous seasons. It's a one off. Villa have needed a goal scorer for about a decade, Randy used the Milner money to fulfill that. It's not the start of a spree





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