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Spinal Tap

After Saturday's game much was made of the difference in quality between Villa and Everton; about our lack of depth, our poor tempo and about how well Everton had started the season after their valiant win against Manchester United. Not many commentators pointed out one quite glaringly obvious problem. In our starting eleven only three players can consider themselves to be sufficiently experienced at Premier League level -Given, N'Zogbia and Bent. Our four new players have no experience at this level and most importantly, of our entire back four only Clark and Baker have had a taste of top flight competition as academy graduates.

Much talk on the forums has surrounded who we might buy come Friday. Cheap, promising imports like Genk's Christian Benteke and Venlo's Maya Yoshida, have been linked to the club during the current transfer window. Some would see such moves as value for money. Indeed, many of the continental bargains listed are players who could be taken forward by Lambert's training regime given time. And why not-after all the club have already brought in Karim El Ahmadi for £2.5 million and Ron Vlaar for round £3 Million from the Dutch League along with the experienced Holman on a free. All three look promising and show class touches.

I would suggest, however, that we perhaps need more than aptitude, ability and willing- we are going to need Premier League experience to anchor the team. Aspects of El Ahmadi's, Vlaar's and Holman's play undoubtedly evidence their lack of experience in the Barclays Premier League, the most unforgiving of sporting arenas.

I'm sure that you don't need reminding that the line between success and failure is often small at this level. For those who do not know where that line is -as in Saturday's case- that line can quickly become an expansive crack into which confidence and morale can all too readily slip. That line was not observed on Saturday and now we find ourselves needing to beat League One outfit Tranmere Rovers for confidence. A sorry state of affairs already and it is not even September.

Lambert is right though in saying that the defending for the first two of Everton's goals was poor. Villa came out and played what could only be described as hangover football. As a result nobody got tight on Pienaar, who was allowed to tee up the ball for his strike for the opening goal. For the second goal the cross was allowed to centre nicely for Fellaini. Given's sloppy glove work then posed no challenge to the resulting effort. All too easy I'm afraid. Gun, trigger, foot- game over. Again, it's the manner of the defeat that gets under the claret and blue skin. Yes, we understand that there are young players and new players who are still trying to step up to the bruising tempo and rhythm. However, we are still going to need experience because this beloved, misfiring team of ours has a bad spine.

By my reckoning we need three experienced Premier League players to remedy this: (1) A proven central defender. (2) A midfielder who can regulate the Villa heart beat, in the mould of the classing engine house player; someone who keeps the team ticking over. (3) A holding forward player who can link midfield to attack. We might get away with a specialist left back from outside the Premier League, (such as Cresswell) though when it comes to the spine of the team we will need steel through the middle, from keeper to striker. With Cuellar and Collins gone, Petrov fighting cancer and Heskey released on a free we will need to bring in better quality players in those positions whilst ensuring a high level of experience -and all for affordable money. Taking into consideration current market conditions and the fact that the club simply have to buy, we may well be faced with an over the odds transfer deal for a Kevin Doyle or Matt Dawson come Friday simply because we need experience. Having just offloaded Makoun to Rennes, with Warnock on his way to Blackburn more money has been freed up which must now be reinvested in familiar Premier league faces. We must, I believe, fill these crucial positions. So why?

There is a reason big clubs do not come in with firm offers for Darren Bent. He is an outstanding finisher with great spatial awareness and movement in and around the six yard box. Outside of that he brings nothing to team play. He has perhaps the fewest touches of any Premier League starting player and has no impact on play for all of his work rate. Thus, having an experienced forward player who can link attack to midfield is essential if we are to expand play, move up the pitch in yards, thereby making the most of Bent's potency in and around the six yard box. We needed someone who knows how to play that role in the Premier League. Kevin Doyle could be the man.

Starting with an inexperienced centre back partnership is a recipe for disaster. Although Vlaar and Baker were better than Vlaar and Clark, neither partnership offer the experience we need at the moment. That leaves us with one place to go. Love him or loathe him as a footballer, 33 year old Richard Dunne is the only real option if we don't intend to buy. If we stick and don't twist, he will need to work with both to give them the chance to bed in as Premier League performers. As he comes to the end of his club career we need to squeeze what is left from his experience for the benefit of the players coming through. Arguing and pontificating about past failures will not change that one bit. I still think he can offer something and Lambert is the man to ensure he delivers. Still, let's hope we can buy someone. Hell, I'd drive Dawson here myself if it helps.

Finally, if you don't have an engine you don't go anywhere. For all of Petrov's critics on the pitch we all agree on one point: he has a phenomenal work ethic and mind boggling energy levels to go with it, as witnessed in his fight against Leukaemia. He was the metronome of the side; encapsulating our match day rhythm. He also won those second balls and broke up play. No, it might not be creative or attractive and it certainly doesn't sell seats, but it is essential and necessary work nonetheless. In my opinion Stan was and still is, simply one of the best in the business at what he does. His illness had a profound effect on the team, not only emotionally but in footballing terms as well. Sure -El Ahmadi shows great energy though we are going to need a player who can bang the drum and go to war like Petrov did. A trench man and a general. That is not Delph, Herd or Clark for me either. An experience player is needed here too. Palacios anyone?

Friday will be a day for experienced heads, holding your never and most importantly experienced Premier League players agreeing to terms and signing on the dotted line. It is not a day for the foreign import. Cheque book and pen ready please Mr. Chairman. You know it makes sense and it doesn't have to cost the earth. With key players released or sold, with perhaps more to follow, the money should be there for sensible re-investment.

In Lambert we trust


Date:Tuesday August 28 2012
Time: 10:15AM


Some very valid points. Manure won the league with kids BUT they had the likes of Cantona to share his wisdom and experience. We aren't good enough to carry Bent for his 1 touch in the 6 yard box, we didn't even shoot till the 45th minute at the weekend and I think that that was one of Bannan's hollywood balls overhit anyway. Drop Bent and bring him in as an impact sub. Doyle is a team player, yes I know he doesn't score lots of goals but Bent doesn't either unless you give him the ball to his feet in the 6 yard box, and at least Doyle/Wiemann can do lots of other things aswell.
28/08/2012 10:33:00
The problem isn't who we need, it's more how much we will offer them. I can't see many superstars signing for Villa on our new Wage policy..... I can;t imagine we're targeting players who command more than £30k a week. I can't see it!
28/08/2012 11:01:00
Some good points here. Didn't think I'd be saying this with 3 days of the window left,but we seem to need Dunne. After watching him at the Euros though, sums up just how desperate our plight is. Tranmere will be a real test tonight - started the season well and the media are hovering, waiting for an upset. With all the rumours about Redknapp getting a PL job in the next day or 2, begginning to wish we'd been nicer to him over the years...
28/08/2012 11:10:00
Redknappp? Don't be mad. Lambert is the man. Just wait and see.
28/08/2012 11:23:00
Lambert is a good manager.Truth is we waiting to see if RL is going to be a good chairman and back him. your 123 Grizzly 1 Dawson agree totally with you 2. Midfield Adam for 5 mill. 3 would love Carrol but like the other 2 probably just wishfull thinking on our present budget.
28/08/2012 12:30:00
Can't disagree with the need for experience but don't fancy journeymen like Dawson and Doyle. The premiership is different but I'd rather have quality that takes a few games to settle than panic buy and waste even more money.
28/08/2012 13:06:00
I agree in some ways but N Zog and Given were 2 of our worst players, along with the Fonz who started bright but soon lost confidence. Bannan who looked very out of his depth but much lke under McLeish I spent most f the game wandering where all our midfield was. So often player had the ball and there was no simple option, people didnt com short they all hid behind their markers. For this reason I want to see MF overhauled. I beieve swap Olsson for Warnock, get 'Zonzi in, NCR on a free plus this chap from Genk. If we need to sell Ireland as there must be an issue there for him not to have come on!
Chelt Villan
28/08/2012 13:47:00
Totally agree with the need for a spine of steel. Experience will help steady the youngsters. Dawson lacks pace but positional sense can go a long way in covering this.
28/08/2012 19:47:00
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