Paul Lambert placed his trust in his younger players last season, and this ethos is evident once again in Villa’s summer transfer activity, yet despite the healthy amount of new players brought in, we in general know very little about them. But as mentioned in my previous article, any club’s main objective in the transfer window is to strengthen the squad and I believe Villa have certainly done that, whilst also keeping hold of their best players, an added bonus for any relatively ‘small club’ in the Premier League.
The fact they have made a number of signings is in itself a good sign as the core of any team is not just strength, but strength in depth. For example the signings of Nicklas Helenius (22 years of age) and deadline day recruit Libor Kozak (24) have not only provided the necessary backup for Christian Benteke, but due to the fact both stand at the 6’ 4” plus mark means that Lambert has bought players which he feels can adapt to their style of play, as well as flourish in it. With Benteke as the focal point of a front three, if he were to get injured, Villa’s game plan would be undone and very much have to change. However, due to Lambert’s astute business, if something were to happen to Benteke, or should a fresh face need to enter the fray, he does not need to alter the shape of his team nor worry about introducing someone who has at least the same physical presence, despite perhaps not being overall as complete a player, as Benteke. Lambert has bolstered the nucleus of his team and taken the necessary precautions to avoid any havoc injuries in forward usually wreak, ensuring his team can be comfortable playing with whoever they find themselves sharing the pitch with.
Lambert’s focus seems to have been to add players who will fit immediately in to his squad, and like his frontmen, this is also evident in his other signings. The young Bulgarian Aleksander Tonev, recommended to the club by former captain and living legend Stiliyan Petrov, is a direct and quick winger/forward who again is not dissimilar to Lambert’s preferred choices in this position, Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann, but possesses slightly more goal threat from distance and is also left footed. The Villa manager has also signed young Danish central defender, Jores Okore; Spanish full back, Antonio Luna; and Dutch central midfielder Leandro Bacuna. Already, Luna has showed his willingness to attack and with Lambert’s narrow midfield this is again another signing well suited to how he wants his team to play, whilst Bacuna provides slightly more creativity for his middle three and Jores Okore, at only 20 years of age, will hope to sturdy the Villa defence, whilst also learning from the likes of Ron Vlaar. My point is that these signings are successful due to the fact that they will allow Lambert to stay true to his tactical philosophy yet be fluent and unpredictable with his lineup, thus providing a solid platform for Aston Villa’s push to consolidate at least mid table status.
Aston Villa should be very happy with their summer activity as not only is the average age of players brought in 23, but when compared to the average age of those who have left, 28, it is clear that Villa are very much going about their development as a football club in a sensible and productive manner. By removing the dead weight and players perhaps past their peak, Lambert will not only see his young talent improve quicker, but also fill them with confidence and faith, accelerating their development even further. On top of this, they have even loaned six players, of which only Darren Bent and Steven Ireland are above the age of 22, another aspect of this transfer window that suggests good things lay ahead for Lambert’s side.
Therefore, although Villa fans may be apprehensive about the time it will take for the players to adjust to the massive reshuffle at Villa Park, they should be equally as optimistic, not just about this season, but about their future as a whole. Darren Bent’s departure may rankle with Villa fans, due to the lack of money received and the help he may give a mid table rival, but, the retaining of Christian Benteke‘s services is much more significant going forward and therefore the club should be applauded, as it already seems their position come the final day of the season will be very much dependent on the goals he scores. And finally, despite the relatively unknown status of Lambert’s new boys, there is no doubt he has supported the big Belgian’s decision to stay with astute and plentiful reinforcements, whilst laying strong foundations for a very exciting future so I would be extremely surprised if Villa fans weren’t feeling rather good about themselves when the clock struck 11pm on Monday night.