Aston Villa: Dean Smiths Side Are Not the New Fulham Despite Spending Spree

​If you check any football social media posts at the moment, chances are you'll see two things.

The first of which would be that Aston Villa have signed a new player, and secondly, there will be a 'funny guy' dubbing the Villans 'the new Fulham'.

Aston Villa v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Play-off Final

According to reports, Villa are about to complete their eight and ninth signings of the summer in the form of centre-back Bjorn Engels from Olympiacos and Douglas Luiz, a Manchester City holding midfielder.

Now yes, on the surface, the way the club are doing things may seem eerily similar to that doomed Fulham effort last season, but that would be an incredibly lazy way of looking at things.

There are several differences between the two side's first summers back in the Premier League following a play-off win, but the most obvious of which is the profile of player that both teams have bought.

First, let's take a look at Fulham, who will now forever be known as a warning from history; a lesson in how not to do things when winning promotion.

Like Villa, they had an incredible run at the tail-end of the season, and were only pipped to an automatic promotion place by Cardiff, before eventually beating Steve Bruce's Villa side in the play-off final last May.

Slavisa Jokanovic's team had developed a brilliant, swashbuckling style that would blow their opponents away simply by outscoring the opposition, but Fulham decided to spend big, becoming the first promoted side in history to spend over £100m.

Fulham's 2018 Summer Signings

Player (Age) Team Signed From Fee
​Jean Michael Seri (26) Nice ​£27m
​Andre Zambo Anguissa (22) ​Marseille ​£22.3m
​Aleksandar Mitrovic (23) ​Newcastle United ​£22m
​Alfie Mawson (24) ​Swansea City ​£15m
​Joe Bryan (24) ​​Bristol City
​Fabri (30) ​Besiktas ​£5.4m
​Maxime Le Marchand (28) ​Nice ​£3.6m
​Andre Schurrle (27) ​​Borussia Dortmund
​Loan (£360k)
​Calum Chambers (23) ​​Arsenal
​Luciano Vietto (24) ​​Atletico Madrid
​Sergio Rico (24) ​Sevilla ​Loan
​Timothy Fosu-Mensah (20) ​​Manchester United

This naturally upset what was already a settled side, and the key components to their success such as Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney were pushed to the wayside in favour of players who clearly just saw the Cottagers as a route into English football, rather than somewhere they could build a team which could challenge the elite.

It seemed clear that they didn't really have much of a plan, especially considering that seven of the transfers came in the final two weeks of the window, which all led to Jokanovic having no idea what his best lineup would be.

The result turned out to be a disaster. Fulham ended up firing Jokanovic in November, before sacking his replacement Claudio Ranieri just three months later, and they were relegated, ten points away from safety and conceding a staggeringly high 81 goals during the campaign.

Slavisa Jokanovic

Now let's compare that with Villa's summer of 2019.

We are only in mid-July, and the club are well on-course to match, or even top Fulham's spending from last summer.

But there lies the main point, Villa have got their business done early, and there is a clear strategy.

Aston Villa 2019 Summer Transfers

Player (Age) Team Signed From Fee
​Wesley (22) ​Club Brugge ​£22.5m
​Tyrone Mings (26) ​​Bournemouth
​Matt Targett (23) ​Southampton ​£14m
​Ezri Konsa (21) ​Brentford  ​£12m
​Anwar El Ghazi (24) ​Lille ​£8m
​Jota (28) ​​Birmingham
​Kortney Hause (23) ​Wolves ​£3m
​Bjorn Engels (24) ​Olympiakos ​£9m (TBC)
​Douglas Luiz (21) ​Manchester City ​£15m (TBC)

Following the play-off victory over Derby, chief executive Christian Purslow claimed that Villa would not overpay for players, and that the club would only sign players if they would benefit the squad in the top flight and fit the profile of a Dean Smith player.

Take their search for a holding midfielder for example; Kalvin Phillips of Leeds United was the top target, but the Yorkshire club want £30m for their star man, so they have instead gone for the highly-rated Luiz at half that price.

Purslow and Smith have learned from the lessons of the past, gone are the days of wasting their entire budget on big names such as Ross McCormack and Joleon Lescott, and Purslow has also insisted that they will try to avoid loan signings.

All of this business is due to necessity, because post play-off final, Villa released eight players, and sent five back on-loan (three of which have now come back on permanent deals).

They have let go of players who are high-earners, in their mid-30s, not good enough for the Premier League, or a combination of all of those three.

Neutrals surely can't have thought that Villa would lineup in their top-flight return with one senior centre-back, no wingers and one fit striker. This surgery absolutely needed to happen.

By their own admission, Villa are ahead of schedule in the Dean Smith project, having only finished fifth thanks to a record ten game winning streak at the back end of the season, and winning just one game in ten over sides that finished above them.

They still have the same strong core that led to their promotion, with the brilliant midfield of Jack Grealish and John McGinn pulling the strings, while the colossal Tyrone Mings is a huge coup.

The average age of their signings this summer is just 23, and all but one of those confirmed transfers have worked with the manager in the past, so Smith, and the players, know exactly what to expect of one another.

Tyrone Mings

They will be hoping to achieve far more than just a 17th place finish, but even if it does go wrong again, Villa seem like a club now prepared for any situation, a refreshing change from recent years

Judging by the 30,000 season ticket they have sold this year, optimism and excitement is high at Villa Park, but unlike Fulham, they must see the plan through, and even when things get tough in the Premier League and doubts inevitably set in, they must keep the faith with Smith.

The boyhood Villa fan has been a revelation for the club, and has finally bought belief back to a fan base long starved of any for many years; and he now deserves to implement his style on the Premier League.

The boyhood Villa fan has been a revelation for the club, and has finally bought belief back to a fan base long starved of any for many years; and he now deserves to implement his style on the Premier League.

Whatever happens this season, it is pretty clear that Villa are not panicking to the same extent that their play-off conquers from last year did, and it will be fascinating to see how they take on a league which will be new to a good portion of them.

Source : 90min