Writer: Chris Heath
Date:Friday June 21 2013
Paul Lambert's continuing transformation at Aston Villa Football Club is to continue in the upcoming months when the Summer transfer window opens on 1st July.
With two weeks until clubs make every opportunity to strengthen and avoid losing their most valued assets, Villa and Lambert have taken an advantage over other Premier League clubs by signing five players, Aleksandar Tonev, Jores Okore, Leandro Bacuna, Nicklas Helenius and Antonio Luna.
In the past two seasons Villa have been embroiled in intense relegation battles and next season no one associated with the club wants that rollercoaster of emotions again. With Lambert's physiology, similar to his former side Borussia Dortmund of promoting youth and concentrating on the club's academy being installed into the club the chances of this look less likely next season.
The majority of the claret and blue faithful were critical of Lambert's transfer policy of bringing in foreign, untested lower league players and shipping out experienced high earners, few doubters will remain after the majority of his signings were undiscovered gems. A notable couple, Brad Guzan and Christian Benteke kept Villa's Premiership status in tact for another year; contributions from Ashley Westwood and Matthew Lowton helped.
Player of the year goalkeeper Guzan and 23 goal Belgian hitman Benteke were Villa's outstanding players last year.
USA number two Guzan started the season on the bench, again deputy to Shay Given, a common occurrence for Brad. When he replaced Shay between the sticks after just two games he was determined not to let the chance pass him by again.
He had felt disappointment when in 2010 former boss Martin O'Neill decided to play Brad Friedel at Wembley against Manchester United in the League Cup final instead of him, even after he had played in every round previous to the final.
Last season he commanded his six yard box with dominance that reminded me of Brad Friedel. In the Premier League he had the most aerial catches last season and would of singularly been known for keeping Villa up had Christian Benteke not been around.
The 7m signing from Belgian side Genk was unknown before arriving at Villa Park, many fans doubting he could prove competition for Darren 'DB9' Bent which was not the case. The 'beast' bagged 23 goals in all competitions, 19 in the Premiership, only one away from equalling Peter Withe's 20 goals in one season. He is attracting interest from some of the top clubs around Europe, if Villa keep him time will tell.
Many Villa fans are expecting Lambert to repeat his previous successes of last season in this transfer window and dispel a third consecutive relegation battle; in my opinion if he does and Christian Benteke signs a new deal, a challenge for the top seven is not impossible.
Villa fans haven't seen the club challenge for the top six and even dizzy heights of the top four since Martin O'Neill's reign (2006-2010), for this to happen again Villa will have to ship out some big earners lowering the wage bill, matching owner Randy Lerner's ongoing vision.
Darren Bent (70k), Shay Given (50k) and Stephen Ireland (65k) haven't lived up to their astronomical wage and will be shipped out and replaced by much younger and more hungrier players to match Lambert's ongoing physiology.
Villa fans can expect to see up to seven departures this Summer, two have already been confirmed (Dunne and Lichaj) after their contracts expired, high earners (mentioned above) and a few fringe players will also depart. The possibility of seven out and nine in isn't too far away from what is expected at Villa this season.
When Paul Lambert took charge of Aston Villa the first thing he realised was that he was inheriting unwelcome gifts from previous managers. Owner Randy Lerner wanted the wage bill to be dramatically slashed and the club to follow in the model of bringing in youth and players through the academy, as well as keeping the club in the top flight of English football. Lambert achieved this last season and is now looking onwards to adding to the destiny he is trying to create.
In the next part Lambert's new signings (in the last two weeks) will be looked at in detail.
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Date:Friday June 21 2013
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