With Aston Villa currently going through severe financial struggles, as want-away owner Randy Lerner struggles to find potential buyers of the club, transfer funds are at a premium for Paul Lambert.
The manager has been forced to settle for low-cost, veteran options thus far, bringing in Philippe Senderos and Joe Cole on a pair of frees, but is also attempting to raise funds to bolster the squad, with a planned fire sale of as many as seven players this summer.
The names rumoured to be heading for the exit door however do not reflect well whatsoever on Lambert’s past transfer dealings since taking over in June 2012, with several of them brought in under his management.
Left-back Joe Bennett, who was signed for £2.75 million in August 2012, is said to be up for sale, as well as last summer’s signings Aleksandar Tonev and Antonio Luna.
In addition, Danish striker Nicklas Helenius has just returned to his old side Aalborg on a season-long loan, after failing to make a single start in his first season at Villa Park, while once-promising striker Jordan Bowery, who arrived from Chesterfield in August 2012 for £500K, was sold to Rotherham in June, after failing to score in his 19 appearances for the club.
Having originally been signed in the 2013 January transfer window, Yacouba Sylla is another Lambert is keen to ship out, with Alan Hutton, Chris Herd and Enda Stevens the other three names reported.
That means four of the seven were the Scot’s own additions, three of them 2013 summer singings, with back-up goalkeeper Jed Steer, Leandro Bacuna, Libor Kozak and Jores Okore also added for the 2013/14 campaign, the latter two suffering season-ending injuries after costing a combined £10 million.
Lambert had better success in the transfer market the prior season, counting among his signings the highly-rated Ashley Westwood for £2.5 million, star striker Christian Benteke for £7.5 million and captain Ron Vlaar for £3.5 million, all which look like good pieces of business.
However, other buys that summer not previously mentioned, £3.5 million right-back Matthew Lowton and £2.5 million Moroccan midfielder Karim El Ahmadi, have failed to make the desired impact.
The pain is eased somewhat with Benteke’s growing reputation but it’s clear that Lambert’s hit rate is far from good enough, and things don’t appear to be improving this offseason either, with Cole and Senderos doing little to inspire confidence, nor reports of the imminent arrival of Kieran Richardson and Nicklas Bendtner.
Unless a new owner is found fast, things are set up for another challenging top-flight campaign for Villa, in which they are likely to be battling to stave off relegation for the fourth consecutive season.