Five nitpicked signings and one priceless contract extension – Paul Lambert ran through the transfer business in such a rampant fashion that it barely gave his fellow competitors a sniff on Villa’s transfer targets. Now, after a 3 match-run in Germany and another few scheduled on their home soil, the Aston Villa side reflects nothing but a promising outfit only comparable to a rather well-oiled Birmingham machinery forged few miles ahead of Villa Park.
New signings are already feeling at home while the dead wood have been granted their exit passes before it gets too late. It’s evident that Paul doesn’t leave any of his pre-season preparations on mere chances. And it’s not just now that Lambert’s mini-revolution Villa Park has come up for discussion. Into his 3rd transfer window, the manager has already bought a new 11, leaving no doubts about Villa’s intention to present a brand new project.
It does exhibit the obvious shades of a wholesale turnaround at a mid-table Premier League club. Yet Lambert has brought his own set of objectives that could go a long way to changing the footballing perception at the club.
Radical changes in transfer policies
Instead of the conventional scouring from their 4 traditional feeders clubs – Sheffield, Crewe, Middlesbrough and Chesterfield – Lambert, like in his professional career, had an urge for reach out abroad. His inclination for foreign scalps meant the Villa management, for a change, had to finance scouting trips away from the British islands.
While other mid-table clubs were assessing their financial options, Lambert in the latter half of the last season had sketched his complete transfer model. Evidently, the labour behind planning methodically for the new season has been increasingly fruitful for the side that went about their transfer business in Poland, Denmark, Holland and lower-tiers of Spain.
They recruitment ticked all their requirements as Lambert made sure the lads were proven, tactically open to changes and easy on the pocket (€12.3 million to be precise).
The new recruits: Potential competitors or outright replacements?
After tailoring the transfer policies to match with his own free-flowing football, Lambert had to also set his needs and luxuries jotted down before any kind of transfer activity. What it resulted into was a systematic introduction of players that would not only set the ground running from the word go, but also send his message out loud to the complacent lot already donning the Claret and Blues.
In came Aleksandar Tonev, Jore Okore, Leandro Bacuna, Nicklas Helenius and Antonio Luna – with not much of a reputation on the English shores (Yes! that means no YouTube compilations either). Yet, unfazed by the curiosity surrounding the media circles and countless fanzines, Lambert knew what he was doing.
In Tonev, he had found an ideal warhorse for the left-wing that was led inefficiently by the Frenchman Charles N’Zogbia. Tonev, who was backed by a fellow Bulgarian and Villa legend Stiliyan Petrov to achieve great success at Villa Park. Also Okore could fit right into the central defence along with Dutchman Ron Vlaar. Having gathered some priceless Champions League experience last year, this young Dane, largely known for his strength and tackling nuances could only improve the Villa back-four.
Yet the pick of the lot remains to be the Dutch starlet Bacuna, a 21-year-old pacy customer that has been talked about across Europe for his ability to play naturally on right-back, attacking right-wing and central midfield positions. So, in Lambert’s managerial diary he goes down as a player that could compete with Albrighton on the wings, cover Lawton as a full-back and float as a crucial midfield marker in the big games – all at a price of 1 million Euros – that’s some acquisition from the Scot!
His budget remains modest. His football remains rooted to result-oriented terms. And his signings so far looks to have set the right tone for the upcoming season.
Swaying towards football from hoofball: boon or curse?
For the football clubs hanging in the balance of Premier League bound financial limitations, changing trends of the on-field contests doesn’t have much of its own voice in the boardroom conflicts. For the board, pragmatic elements like result, finances and consistency hold its dominance over other issues. And it seems after playing their customary rounds of Russian roulette in appointing the team manager every other season – the usual suspects of Bruce, Hughes, Mcleish and McCarthy – few Premier League teams – including Villa – have genuinely opted for a change.
After witnessing recent examples of Norwich, Swansea and Wigan led by young managers that adhered to modern styles, clubs like Aston Villa with a shrewd managerial talent like Lambert have envisioned a long-term project of their own. Building a sustainable model is only going to help this budding Villa side that aspires for a European berth this season. And if building on to what we saw last season against the likes of City and Liverpool, Villa may no more be the pushovers they were deemed to be few years ago.
However, with visible opportunities are clinging risks that are bound to hamper a side’s progress. Recent examples and Sunderland and QPR point to the fact that wholesale changes to the squad could also amount to some horrid self-implosions – and precaution against them is mandatory.
Villa on the other hand have been more cautious in building their new side under Paul Lambert, as the budget hasn’t touched the roof. Moreover, Lambert revels on the luxuries of building on what actually was a promising squad around their main striker Christian Benteke – another coup that agreed for a crucial contract extension recently.
As compared to Sunderland and QPR from last season, Lambert’s theories look way more resourceful purely on the availability of academy and foreign produce that could cater his need at least for this domestic season.
What does it offer to the on-looking Villans?
Nothing is more refreshing for the fans than some promising strides off some of the new signings. And the Villans to their advantage have five of them to look forward to this season. Moreover, the growth of the likes of Lawton and ever-intriguing second season of a striker as good as Benteke, Lambert has all the right to be optimistic ahead of the season.
Although, visits to Arsenal and Chelsea as their first two fixtures of the season is far from ideal, let’s hope it does little to affect the rising morale of Lambert and his boys.