How worried should Aston Villa be ahead of the coming season?
Aston Villa is a club currently facing disconcerting issues. The famous claret and blue outfit are up for sale and have received little indication of a genuine buyer despite the asking price reportedly being dropped by £50m.
Due to this the transfer kitty is far from healthy and manager Paul Lambert has been forced to reintegrate the much derided ‘bomb squad’ with the senior team. Put simply the clubs appeal is fast becoming about as attractive as a backpacking holiday to the Gaza Strip and many doom mongers are predicting another season dwelling in the mists of relegation.
However, it seems Villa’s biggest problem at present may not be any of the above, but the strange decision by Paul Lambert to reinstall ‘Football Manager 2009/10’ onto his laptop.
The clubs pre season signings to date add up to four players that once displayed promise, only for the cruel reality of time to riddle their body with injury or expose them as frauds.
Rewind to the season of 2009/10 and most teams containing Villa’s latest recruits would be pushing for European qualification. At that time Aly Cissokho was one of the most highly rated left backs in the game. After a failed transfer attempt by AC Milan the powerful Frenchman joined Lyon from Porto for €15m.
Joe Cole was still a force at Chelsea and was about to be one of the few shining lights in England’s failed attempts at lifting the 2010 World Cup.
Kieran Richardson still had annoyingly curly hair, but was still capable of causing havoc down the left wing for Sunderland and Phileppe Senderos was deemed good enough to attract a loan move to AC Milan.
Add to this the reintroduction of the ‘bomb squad,’ where Darren Bent was one of the most prolific strikers in the league and Shay Given’s goal was protected by an invisible force field. Return to the present and if any self respecting ‘Football Manager’ tried sign any of the above the computer would most likely laugh and blow up in their face.
There is of course an argument for Lambert’s somewhat uninspiring forays into the transfer market. The severe lack of funds being the main catalyst as well as the hope that Joe Cole could have the same impact as veteran Holte End hero Paul Merson did.
The second coming of Alan Hutton and the more robust purchase of Cissokho may also be the influence of Roy Keane informing Lambert that his defence was looking ‘feckin lightweight,’ and despite a career seemingly spanning 108 unfulfilled years there is a mild debate that Senderos is still a player of potential.
There are positives in the form of Jores Okore and Charles N’Zogbia feeling like new signings and Jack Grealish is an incredibly exciting prospect if given a chance. ‘Concrete Ron’ Vlaar looked a formidable figure in Brazil and star man Benteke is also slowly on the mend.
For many Villa fans this could be deemed as the most disappointing build up to a new season since Dwight Yorke was sold to Manchester United, but at least they had the legitimate excitement of then manger John Gregory declaring that he ‘could have shot him.’
It was only a few seasons ago that Aston Villa was competing with the likes of Tottenham and Everton trying to infiltrate the coveted top four. Whilst Spurs continue to splash the equivalent amount of money as Villa’s combined squad on one player and Everton are shrewd enough to capture the excellent Besic for £4 million, Villa stand holding a piece of cardboard reading ‘Free to play for, contact for more details.’
Fans of Aston Villa are a loyal, large and realistic bunch, in the face of circumstance they can take temporary mediocrity and occasional flirtations with relegation, but they will not tolerate constant embarrassment.
Only time will make or break Lambert’s grand plan in the face of limited resources. Villa’s pre season tour of America could be deemed successful, but more recent displays not so.
I don’t see them becoming as embroiled in a relegation fight as others think, but wouldn’t expect much more than a top fourteen finish… that is of course unless Lambert manages to unlock the notorious ‘Football Manager’ “cheat formation” or “Sugar Daddy” mode!