Aston Villa's summer - A playmaker away from being perfect?

Trinity Road Stand - Aston Villa

Aston Villa have had a very positive summer so far, boosted by the fact Christian Benteke will be playing at the club next season.

Paul Lambert obviously didn’t want to miss out on any of his first choice transfer targets this summer, which is a possible explanation of why he did so much business early on.

Villa have made some very sensible signings which improve the squad, haven’t damaged the budget too drastically and have shaped the side up for the new season, giving them a good chance of preventing the relegation dogfight they experienced last time round.

Players Signed

Aleksandar Tonev was signed from Lech Poznan in a deal worth just below the £3 million mark. He’s a versatile winger who gives the club plenty of options in wide areas. His presence should help to take a little bit of pressure away from the likes of Charles N’Zogbia and Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Jores Okore is possibly the best signing for Aston Villa so far this summer. He arrived from FC Nordsjaelland with Champions League experience and also after reports that suggested teams like Liverpool and Manchester United were weighing up potential bids for him. Another good deal at just over £4 million.

Leandro Bacuna is another wide and attacking midfield player who arrived for under £900,000 from FC Groningen. Paul Lambert seems to have singled him out to play a driving role in the Aston Villa midfield, giving them a punch going forward which was absent at times last season.

Nicklas Helenius looks as though he could end up being considered the bargain of the summer at £1.2 million from Aalborg. He was possibly drafted in with Benteke’s departure in mind, which means that Aston Villa now have a very strong and very big attacking unit to take into their Premier League challenge.

Antonio Luna also looks like a bargain at under £2 million from La Liga side Sevilla. Having played at four different levels for Spain already in his career he seems to be an injection of real quality to the Aston Villa defence which was missing last season.

Lambert also utilised his old links with Norwich City to sign 20-year-old goalkeeper Jed Steer as cover for current number one Brad Guzan.

Players Needed

It doesn’t look like there are too many players that Aston Villa need to go after. There is plenty of cover all over the squad in many positions, but they are still lacking a playmaker. Younes Belhanda was reported to be a target and he would have been ideal, and Villa should be searching for a player of his ilk.

Lambert may choose to add a little bit of experience to the squad ahead of the new season, potentially in the back four, but the main framework is in place.

Deals Missed Out On

Again there aren’t really any examples of deals that have gone wrong as far as Aston Villa are concerned. Lambert researched the various markets well and has got the players he’s wanted.

The only name that springs to mind is Younes Belhanda, a player who would have undoubtedly added a little bit of extra quality into the midfield but it’s likely Dynamo Kiev offered him a deal Villa wouldn’t have been able to get close to.

Possible Outgoings

Darren Bent could still leave the club with Newcastle United reportedly interested. Losing Bent would ease the strain on Aston Villa’s budget as far as wages are concerned.

There are also a few links and reports still lingering around over possible moves away for some of the club’s higher profile players and talented youngsters; Matt Lowton, Charles N’Zogbia, Barry Bannan.

Bannan and N’Zogbia are the most likely out of those three to leave because the links suggesting Lowton will join a bigger club are flawed and seem to have originated online out of nothing more than hype over how well he performed last season.

Hull have been linked with N’Zogbia while Bannan may have to drop down to the Championship, with Blackburn Rovers thought to be keen on the midfielder.

Budget

For the six players the club has signed, just over £10 million has been spent which suggests there isn’t too much cash to play around with at Aston Villa at the moment. Around £2.6 million of that was taken back through the sale of Jean Makoun to Rennes but we have a good idea of the sort of budget Aston Villa are operating around.

Analysis

Everything is looking very good for Aston Villa fans. Hanging onto Christian Benteke is the best piece of news from the summer so far. Paul Lambert has bought well to keep the squad very diverse and very deep which means he will always have options if the teams starts to struggle next season.

Most importantly he hasn’t been ripped off in the process, getting good value in those deals. Offloading Bent will take even more pressure away from the budget.

Rating: 8/10

image: © Ben Sutherland

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