Is it time to look at the bigger picture?

I share the growing frustration of many Villans at the apparent lack of transfer activity at Bodymoor Heath. We have lost two of our best four players from the past couple of seasons, and it's hard to see signs of any urgency in replacing them.

I don't share the view that Martin O'Neill has a poor record in the transfer window. I think in terms of hits and misses his school report probably compares like-for-like with the managers of most of our rival clubs.


But I do think it's worth looking at this particular window as a basket case. A number of highly unusual situations have arisen which have distorted, stalled and confused the market for players. And it's not just Villa who have been affected: Liverpool (Glen Johnson), and Arsenal (Thomas Vermaelen) have both been undynamic so far, and so have our closest rivals Spurs and Everton. Spurs may have nicked a couple of kids from the Blades, and Everton may have re-signed Jo on loan, but that's not exactly setting the heather on fire, is it?

I think there are four massive factors at play in holding up the transfer market.

Firstly, Manchester City's bottomless pockets for both fees and wages is screwing things up. Agents representing top players will hold out for the merest whiff of interest from the Sheiks of Eastlands, and until Mark Hughes confirms that the sky blue spending is over for the summer, it's difficult to see a lot moving at the top end.

Secondly, Alex Ferguson is sitting on a cash mountain too. Nobody is fooled by his suggestion that his spending may be over having lost out on long-term target Benzema. And David Gill has now confirmed as much. The Ronaldo deal was pure cash, and United are in the box seats for anyone they want. That will also have a delaying effect on movements further down the food chain.

Thirdly, it isn't yet clear who the big spenders - City and Real Madrid - are going to let go. The vultures are circling over a number of top players, but anyone interested is going to have to pay well over normal odds and foot massive salaries to get their hands not only on a Wesley Sneijder or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but even a Michael Johnson or Nedum Onuoha.

Fourthly - and this is very much just a UK effect - a couple of clubs with attractive players are not in a sufficiently stable financial situation to sell. Newcastle cannot sanction the huge pay-offs they would need to offer departing players until their ownership and financial structure is resolved. Portsmouth can't really do serious business, likewise, until the FA gives the green light to their new owners - they too have been paying daft wages and will need to buy players out of top-heavy contracts. It seems Everton, too, are in deep uncertainty over their ownership and available funds.

Put all this together, and I think you have a unique stalemate in the transfer window. That's not O'Neill's fault - and the irony is, the higher the quality you want to bring in, the more complicated it is going to be,

Bill Howell spouted an awful lot of mealy-mouthed tosh in his recent "web chat". But one sensible thing he did say was that he thought the big deals may happen very late in this window.

There, for once, I agree with him. Until the big guns are done and the market stabilises - until we know who's available and who's in for them at reasonable prices - very little is going to happen.

Sure, I want exciting signings and I want them tomorrow. But I also think the market has been changed beyond all recognition, and I wonder if we won't be starting the season with a squad which doesn't look very much different from the one we have now. We all hope for great developments - but this is one weird, weird window.