There is only a month to wait ‘til the start of the Premier League. Over the next few weeks @0riginalfooty will preview the new season, take a look at each team and offer our predictions as to where each side will finish. Here we take a look at Aston Villa.
Aston Villa have been in limbo for the past 4 seasons and have faced a relegation battle throughout the majority of each season. Randy Lerner has announced that he is trying to sell the club that has added even more uncertainty to proceedings for the Villa Park faithful. Talismanic striker Christian Benteke is also injured for the foreseeable future and could be ruled out from now until any time between September and the New Year dependent on his recovery rate. Villa will be hoping for a less stressful season at the wrong end of the table but it is hard to see them climbing too high up the table unless there is a takeover in the next few weeks.
Paul Lambert has been in charge of the West Midlands side for the past 2 seasons and there has been very little progression. In fairness to him there have been significant restraints and limitations placed upon him during his reign as Villa are still trying to undo the financially damaging aspects of O’Neill’s time in charge. Chairmen Randy Lerner trusts him and his position seems safe until a takeover occurs.
There are limited funds to spend so Lambert is doing his best Harry Redknapp “wheeler-dealer” impression and attempting to bring in experienced performers at low cost prices. He has already lured Joe Cole, Philippe Senderos and Kieran Richardson to Villa Park and seems keen to make a couple more signings to bolster his relatively thin squad. However, Villa’s biggest signing so far has perhaps been off the field. Roy Keane has been drafted in as Paul Lambert’s number 2, a role he will assume alongside his position as Ireland’s assistant manager, and could have a big impact on the club. He has been there and done it all as a player so will instantly gain the respect of the players and could be a catalyst for an improved season for the Villans.
Who is tipped to join them?
Nicklas Bendtner has been heavily linked with a move to Aston Villa and is widely expected to sign soon. Swansea’s Ki-Sung Yueng is also tipped to be coming through the door in the next few days. Moreover, a loan deal for Chelsea winger Christian Atsu could be on the cards if he doesn’t feature in Jose Mourinho’s plans for the season.
Who should they sign?
Due to the lack of funding at Villa Park, it is unlikely that they can afford any player that would command a decent transfer fee so they will be scouring the market for bargains; the afore mentioned players wouldn’t be bad pieces of business for them. In honesty, Villa’s best players could be those returning from long absences from the club. Charles N’Zogbia has all the attributes to be a top performer for Aston Villa but there are question marks over his attitude and Darren Bent certainly knows how to stick the ball in the back of the net at this level. If both players are fired up and willing to prove Lambert wrong for casting them out then they could play big parts in the upcoming campaign. The return of Jores Okore from injury is also a huge boost for Paul Lambert and the thought of partnering him and Vlaar at centre-back will be an exciting prospect for the claret and blue faithful.
Fabian Delph. With talismanic figure Christian Benteke being a long-term absentee, the responsibility to galvanise Villa falls largely upon the shoulders of Fabian Delph. As a midfielder he has it all: the ability to pass, shoot and he’s tenacious in the tackle. He scored a host of wonderful goals last season and is often the driving force behind the side. Villa fans will be praying that there is no serious interest in him this summer and they can cling on to one of their prize assets.
Many will be tipping Aston Villa for relegation this season due to the current issues at the club but I see it rather differently. Villa may have their difficulties off the pitch but there is a decent spine to the side with the likes of Guzan, Vlaar, Delph and, when fit, Benteke. Getting Ron Vlaar alongside a more capable defender than Nathan Baker was a priority for this summer and Lambert has addressed this early on. The return of Okore is a boost and the signing of Senderos means that, all of a sudden, there is some decent competition for places in a position that was desperately weak for the Villans last season. They are proven battlers in the bottom half so a relegation scrap will be nothing new to them should it come to it. I think they have enough to see themselves through another season in the Premier League and hopefully earn a sale along the way. I suspect they will end up in the bottom half but will survive. Expect Aston Villa to finish 14th.