With the Premier League season a week away and the metaphorical pressure cooker ready to start brewing for managers, chairmen and players alike and with so much change throughout the league in the form of an increase of revenue from new TV deals and managerial changes throughout the top half of the table, mid-table teams are looking to grow and try and grab their slice of success.
One team with a proud history and which has been in the Premier League since the beginning, is Aston Villa. After struggling last season when Paul Lambert quickly installed a philosophy over a pre-season, re-hauling the majority of the starting 11, bringing in players like Ron Vlaar, Ashley Westwood and Christian Benteke to name a few.
The vision of Paul Lambert was an easy digest for everyone involved at the club, despite a tough sequence of results and questionable performances. The high energy in midfield and attacking force shown in games was a marvel for the neutral and even more satisfying for the Villa faithful especially with the first team’s average age last season being 23, all which suggest that there is a lot of room for development.
Skip forward from last season and with an early surge in the transfer market, Paul Lambert has added depth in every position, from U19 England international Jed Steer, to Danish striker Nicklas Helenius and tied down key performers last season on long term deals, undoubtedly also with a nice wage increase, most notably Christian Benteke.
With pre-season friendlies done and dusted and winning a respectable 4 games out of 9, Paul Lambert will be relatively happy with how things have shaped out.
With new impetus and personnel in the team, Lambert has had more opportunity to install more of his own tactics onto the team now that Villa have options with the right technique and physical attributes that will be akin to pressing high up the pitch and yet willing to track back at pace. Examples of such players include academy graduates Andreas Weimann, Gabby Agbonlahor and new recruit Antonio Luna or “Tony Moon”, as the Villa fans have playfully nicknamed the left sided full back.
Also, the club has added depth throughout the squad at relatively painless transfer fees like, for example, Bulgarian International Aleksandar Tonev who will give competition to Gabby Agbonlahor and Marc Albrighton around the wide areas of the pitch.
Adding to an already overcrowded midfield was never an easy task but Leandro Bacuna has seemed to fit the missing gap that has been needed in an Aston Villa midfield. He possesses true skill, technique, and ability to beat a man and slip a ball forward without needing a lot of yards in front of him, like in the case of a lot of the pacey players that are on the books at Villa Park.
With the dynamic football Aston Villa have been playing over pre-season it shows that they’re developing positively going forward in a fluid and high energy approach that will be heavily reliant on an Aston Villa midfield, which, in recent years, has been awfully shaky and hard to rely on when needed, but with the added stability and depth this shouldn’t be a problem.
Aston Villa fans will be in for a roller coaster season again, but I see them as being a real dark horse in the Premier League surprising many with their determination and attacking quality.
Written by James Clark
Follow James on Twitter @JamesMRClark
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