Aston Villa have been busy in the transfer market over the past fortnight. What are the implications for the current squad of players?
With a full season and two transfer windows under his belt (or one-and-a-half depending on your opinion on the January window), most of us have come to have faith in Paul Lambert’s scouting eye as he continues to sign players who aren’t exactly the household names that our League counterparts are battling to sign.
Curious Villans scour YouTube for compilations of these young guys, much like our scouting networks scour the leagues of Europe and beyond for potential prodigies. Faith fans have in Paul Lambert parallels the faith he has in those he signs, unproven on a greater stage to that of their respective domestic leagues, yet who he sees as capable of excelling in the Premier League.
Villa’s transfer activity in recent seasons was typically dealt as the clock fast approached 12am, into September 1st, with the cynics among us forgiven for deeming those we’ve signed as panic buys.
A 7 million pound punt on a young striker had its doubters, but after year and 19 league goals Benteke’s price tag is more than justified and dwarfed by offers we may receive from the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund to name a few.
Personally, I thought the start of last season with a new manager would see the resurgence of one-time prolific striker Darren Bent, with Benteke to be his understudy and potentially new partner in crime. Sometime down the line in an ideal world, maybe even a new-age answer to the 1994 League Cup-winning partnership of Dalian Atkinson and Dean Saunders, affectionately known as The Deadly D’s.
The similarities in Bent’s and Benteke’s name even made it all possible for the duo to have their own catchy moniker. But with Lambert opting for a partnership of Benteke and either Agbonlahor or Weimann, it seems now that a new dawn has risen while the previous day’s sun has set, being only a matter of time before DB9 is no longer at B6.
Looking at our current activity in the transfer market, we’ve been one of the busiest in the league so far with no less than four recruitments and counting. But are our new signings seen as projects to feature on a bit-part basis as part of a long term plan? Or perhaps straight swaps for those who just don’t warrant a starting place in the squad, in a similar fashion to Benteke and Bent? Allow me to get my Robert De Niro on and analyze this.
The enigmatic Charles N’Zogbia has been subject to transfer speculation on and off during his time here, seemingly a player who could be great but just can’t find his groove. The inconsistency of the Frenchman just doesn’t suffice considering the type of contract he’d be on, leaving Bulgarian left-winger Aleksandar Tonev the opportunity to come in and work his magic. Approval from fellow countryman Stan Petrov should be enough to spur him on to want to make an impact and cement his position in the starting eleven.
Versatile Dutchman Leandro Bacuna could provide competition for several positions, including his natural right-wing position, centre-midfield and right-back. Marc Albrighton’s dip in form and injuries in recent times could result in a starting berth for Bacuna should he impress, while cover and competition for Matt Lowton at right-back will ensure whoever occupies the spot will be the best candidate possible, as it would be hard to shake our most consistent player of last season out of his spot.
Another signing referred by a former Villan in Martin Laursen, Jores Okore is described as a strong centre-back with leadership qualities who allegedly declined a January move to Chelsea. With Nathan Baker assured of his place at the Villa with a new 3-year deal, I feel that this season may see him on the sidelines more often while Okore and Vlaar man the ship, feeding his hunger to regain his position. The prospect of healthy competition in the centre of defence could well be the foundation of a much more solid Villa next season.
Lastly, there’s Danish-born 6ft 5” striker Nicklas Helenius. General reactions to this one were obvious, as we’ve been sweating on the Benteke saga for too long, with this move adding further fuel to the fire. His physical stature indicates to some that he may be a replacement of the type of player Beneteke is to us – a towering presence to support and hold up the ball.
Benteke may want out, but Paul Lambert “won’t necessarily accept that”. It’s no secret that Bent is his first preference to move on in the strike department, with returning Blackpool-loanee Nathan Delfouneso also likely to be shown the door. The outcome of this area of the squad is harder to predict and one can’t help but be a little cynical about it all.
How do you think our new signings will fit in to the squad? Who will stay and compete for their place in the squad and who will be moved on?
image: © Ben Sutherland