When it comes to big spending, not many in Europe can compete with the Big Six – but great wealth can make great clubs complacent and cause them to miss targets hiding in plain sight.
Aston Villa had been tracking Moussa Diaby for two years before they made their move this summer.
As they negotiated to sign the Bayer Leverkusen attacker, Villa were puzzled that their only serious competition was from Saudi Pro League club Al-Nassr – and Diaby never wanted to go there.
At £45million, Diaby was an excellent deal. The left-footed Frenchman is quick, skilful, technically superb and super smart.
He can play as a second striker or on either flank, and already has two goals and two assists in five league games. He could prove one of the signings of the season.
Moussa Diaby (pictured) proved pivotal in helping Aston Villa claim their late 3-1 win against Crystal Palace, teeing up Leon Bailey for the club’s third goal
Unai Emery’s (pictured) side acquired the Frenchman for £45million earlier this summer
They clinched their third league triumph of the season yesterday, bringing them up to seventh in the Premier League standings
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When Diaby resolved to leave Bayer Leverkusen in the summer, it was because he wanted to play in the Champions League.
No club involved in that competition made serious advances so the 24-year-old accepted Villa’s offer, believing Unai Emery’s coaching – plus the huge ambition of billionaire owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens – would take him there eventually.
Diaby has wasted no time setting demanding targets of his own.
‘We want to go to the final of every competition, the Conference League, the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup, and to be in the top five of the Premier League,’ Diaby said.
‘I am very happy to be here, with this club and with these players. I hope to have a good season here.’
Palace took some serious stick from the home fans for their time-wasting tactics, which began early.
The Eagles did not have Roy Hodgson in the dugout after the former England boss began to feel unwell on Saturday morning, though stand-in coach Paddy McCarthy said: ‘We are hopeful he will continue to feel better and be back with us sooner rather than later.’
Like most clubs outside the elite, Palace struggle without key player and here they were missing one in each department through injury: centre-back Marc Guehi, midfielder Jefferson Lerma and forward Matheus Franca, signed for £26m from Brazilian giants Flamengo.
Every club who may finish in the bottom half start the season hoping there are at least three worse teams in the division.
Odsonne Edouard (left) put the visitors a goal up just after half-time striking past Emi Martinez in net
But Villa rallied, with Jhon Duran netting the equaliser before Douglas Luiz (right) converted from the spot in the eighth minute of injury time
Leon Bailey (pictured) secured the third for the Villans, with Diaby creatively supplying the midfielder for his late goal
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Martinez 6; Cash 6.5, Konsa 6, Torres 5.5, Digne 7; McGinn 7 (Duran 71, 7.5), Luiz 7, Kamara 6 (Tielemans 58, 6.5), Zaniolo 5 (Bailey 57, 6); Watkins 6.5, *DIABY 8*.
Subs not used: Olsen, Marschall, Moreno, Chambers, Lenglet, Dendoncker.
Scorers: Duran 87, Luiz 90+8 (pen), Bailey 90+11
Booked: McGinn, Zaniolo, Cash, Duran, Bailey
Manager: Unai Emery 6.5
Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Johnstone 7.5; Ward 6, Andersen 7.5, Richards 6.5, Mitchell 6.5; Ayew 6 (Mateta 24, 7), Doucoure 7.5, Hughes 7.5, Schlupp 6; Eze 7, Edouard 6.5 (Ahmada 90).
Subs not used: Henderson, Matthews, Holding, Clyne, Ebiowei, Riedewald, Rak-Sakyi.
Scorers: Edouard 47
Booked: Eze, Hughes, Ward
Manager: Paddy McCarthy 6.5
Referee: Darren England (South Yorkshire) 6
Palace are certainly among the group crossing their fingers, yet there is more than enough in this squad to avoid a relegation battle.
Odsonne Edouard is a dangerous forward and Cheick Doucoure a fine central midfielder. There are few more gifted players in the league than Eberechi Eze.
‘The international break hasn’t been kind to us with injuries but I was delighted with the application,’ said Paddy McCarthy, who led proceedings in Hodgson’s absence.
For much of the second half, Palace looked as though they would take the points thanks to Edouard’s strike soon after the break.
But Villa substitute Jhon Duran scored a brilliant 87th-minute equaliser before Douglas Luiz’s penalty and Leon Bailey’s tap-in – expertly created by Diaby – sealed the win in stoppage time.