Opinion: How well did Villa fare in the January transfer window?
(Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Dean Smith, Jesus Pitarch and Christian Purslow, along with the advice of scouts across Europe drew together Aston Villa's January battle plan - just how to raid a notoriously difficult market to keep the club in the Premier League.

The window comes half-way through the season, a campaign that so far Villa had failed to light up, at least in the Premier League. A Carabao Cup final awaits next month, but for the time being, relegation-threatened Villa had to execute a handful of successful signings to save a gloomy season.

Wesley, Tom Heaton and John McGinn have all missed the past month of football to serious injuries. McGinn will return next month, but £22 million capture Wesley won't kick a ball until October. Heaton was also injured at Turf Moor, with the two knee injuries setting both players back until next season.

So replacing experience and numbers in a squad that was already lacking in quality was the task facing Villa as the window opened five weeks ago. Pepe Reina, Danny Drinkwater, Mbwana Samatta and deadline day signing Borja Baston all joined in that time.

Here's how to rate Villa's January spending:

Pepe Reina

Replacing Heaton comes in two measures, two very difficult measures: experience and quality. 

Possibly the two most important ingredients in a Premier League squad, but between the sticks, goalkeepers must have both to remain in a division that demands some of the best 'number one's' in the world.

World Cup winner, European Championship winner, FA Cup and League Cup champion Reina was the answer to Heaton's season-ending injury that meant Villa lost a vital component in their defensive structure that has been breached on countless occasions this term.

Only Reading in 2013 has faced more shots on goal than Villa this Premier League season, and with relegation suffered by the Royals, Villa's replacement in goal had to be something special. Reina's arrival, so far, has been justified, making key saves against Brighton & Hove Albion and Watford in his first two league starts. 

Orjan Nyland has impressed in Villa's Carabao Cup run of late, but Reina's composure, leadership and goalkeeping ability will keep Villa in games, and potentially out of the bottom three come May.

Business rating 8/10

Danny Drinkwater

Experience in a relegation fight can be the difference between 35-38 points. The difference between survival or a £100 million loss in TV revenue next season.

For a loan fee dwarfed in comparison with the potential losses Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens could encounter at the end of the end of the season, spending isn't a problem. Whilst FFP is however an issue, Drinkwater was a suitable acquisition for the price and Premier League knowhow he brings - after all, he lifted the league trophy not so long ago.

It was all rosy with Drinkwater's arrival until it was evident that in his first three games in a Villa shirt, match fitness was seriously lacking. Manchester City overran Villa's seemingly compact midfield, whilst Brighton and Watford were two games too far for the Chelsea loanee who hadn't started a game for a few seasons before joining Villa on loan last month.

Replacing McGinn and the lack of experience within Villa's ranks, Drinkwater fills the vacant hole to an extent, but relegation-threatened clubs simply cannot afford for players to get up to scratch with only a few of months left of the Premier League campaign.

Business rating - 6/10

Mbwana Samatta

Villa's marquee and much needed signing of the window, albeit delayed by two weeks was that of Mbwana Ally Samatta. The former Genk striker and captain scored 74 goals over four seasons in Belgium. His goals and performances in this season's Champions League campaign earned him the move to the Premier League.

As Tanzania's captain too, Samatta has brought millions of new fans from his homeland to Villa Park. After scoring on his top flight debut, those in Tanzania following their icon deployed an open top bus to celebrate the nations first goal in the Premier League.

As Villa played five games in January without a recognised forward, they fell into a bottom three scrap, but a draw away at the King Power Stadium helped set up a League Cup final in March. Samatta could've scored in the return leg at Villa Park, but his competitive debut for the club was halted after the hour mark with cramp.

His, amongst Villa fans' celebration on the pitch when fellow African forward Trezeguet scored a late winner, highlighted how Mbwana has already fallen in love with the club that has given him his first real break in top flight European football.

Samatta's goals and involvement up until the end of the season will prove the difference between Villa staying up and going down - so far he looks the part.

Business rating - 8/10

Borja Baston 

The one lingering question that remained on the lips of Villa fans up until January was the lack of centre-forwards at the club, even after Wesley was brought into the club for a club record fee.

Though he was only striker at the club until he suffered ligament damage in a rare away win at Turf Moor. Dean Smith couldn't contend without more than one number nine until May, so Borja Baston, the once £15 million Swansea City signing was brought in at the eleventh hour on deadline day, last week.

Hardly boasting a prolific record in the time since he made the move from Eibar to Swansea until now, but he has scored a handful of goals in Spain - and after all, he provides numbers and competition in Villa's attacking ranks.

Baston may be used sooner than first envisaged for Smith who will be ruing the decision to involve Keinan Davis in Monday's U23 loss to West Bromwich Albion U23. The young forward, who had recently recovered from three month injury lay off, was substituted in the first half due to a reoccurring hamstring problem.

Business rating - 6/10

Overall

Only time will tell wether Villa have successfully plotted their way out of January with a squad capable or not of remaining in the Premier League.

The key additions of Reina and Samatta will serve Villa well from back to front, and coupled with the immense return of McGinn, Smith will no doubt have a stronger squad to select from than a month ago.

Before January, a winger was also a priority in a transfer window that Jarrod Bowen - a key target - moved to relegation rivals West Ham United on deadline day. However, as Smith discovered a solid 5-3-2 formation last month, the wingback system reduced the need to sign a wide man with FFP too a concern this season.

Overall January window - 8/10

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