x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Aston Villa have potential to build on the foundation of young players

The radical trimming of the wage bill was an almighty gamble, but if they do stay in the Premier League, it will show what can be achieved with faith in youth.

Christian Benteke holds promise for Aston Villa. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
Christian Benteke holds promise for Aston Villa. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

I f - and it is still an if, although they are probably only a point from guaranteeing safety - Aston Villa stay up this season, it will represent an extraordinarily successful change of policy.

The radical trimming of the wage bill was an almighty gamble, but if they do stay in the Premier League, it will show what can be achieved with faith in youth.

Over the past two seasons, Villa have a net transfer spend of only around £800,000 (Dh4.56 million), off-loading the likes of Stewart Downing, Ashley Young, John Carew and Luke Young and replacing them with a sprightly array of players in their late teens and early twenties: Matthew Lowton, Ashley Westwood, Joe Bennett, and most excitingly of all, Christian Benteke.

They have blended with young players already at the club - the likes of Andreas Weimann, Barry Bannan and Marc Albrighton - and the result has been a startlingly young side.

It was a huge risk, but back-to-back wins over Sunderland and Norwich City look to have vindicated it.

This season, Aston Villa also won the NextGen Series, a Europe-wide competition for the best Under 19 teams, so the club clearly has talented young players in waiting as well as those already in the first team. The future should be bright.

It is not just that they have lots of bright talents accumulated for very little money.

There is a bonus factor in that a team that grows up together should have a greater mutual understanding and sense of togetherness than an ever-changing squad yoked together for a season or two.

That may even, in the short term, help stave off predators: the theory being that a player would prefer to stick with his mates on a team that is improving rather than earn an extra couple of thousand pounds a week elsewhere.

As Arsenal have discovered, without tangible success the belief in a collective project will only last so long, but Villa are still in the honeymoon phase: most of this team should stay for at least a couple of years.

Add a couple of signings in key areas, iron out a few of the mistakes of inexperience and they should finish in the top half next season.

More importantly, they have shown what can be done by abandoning fear of the drop, breaking the tyranny of the transfer market and looking to the future.

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