Aston Villa Premier League Preview
Players In: Brett Holman, Karim El Ahmadi, Matthew Lowton, Ron Vlaar
Players Out: Carlos Cuellar, Emile Heskey, James Collins
Champions League winner Paul Lambert has risen up through the ranks from Colchester United to Aston Villa in four short years after two promotions and successfully keeping Norwich in the Premier League last year. He will face what could prove to be his biggest challenge in shifting Aston Villa out of the lower mid-table positions that have become too familiar to Villa fans ever since Martin O’Neill left in 2010. The club didn’t win any of their last ten games last season so Lambert will have a lot to do.
Luckily for him the first few fixtures are a chance to get some points on the board and a positive feeling amongst the players and more importantly the fans. After some very barren years with particularly dour football under a dour Scottish manager the Holte End will be hoping that Paul Lambert’s continental experience delivers rather more. If he can get the home fans happy and signing again then Villa Park could be a troubling trip for even the bigger teams and it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say that.
The transfer ins and outs are tidy if not exciting with useful Aussie winger Brett Holman arriving on a free after 10 years learning the trade in the Dutch league. Ron Vlaar and Matthew Lowton should be solid additions to the defence with James Collins and Cuellar leaving the club. The home support will be hoping for a lot from Barry Bannan, Marc Albrighton and Gabriel Agbonlahor. Other new signing Karim El Ahmadi will hopefully shore up a sometimes porous midfield.
First game analysis:
Villa fans hoping for an easier ride to safety this year were in for a rude awakening, as they struggled to create any chance of note against promoted West Ham. Ron Vlaar was welcomed to the Premier League by Carlton Cole, and after struggling initially the Dutchman began to dish it back to the striker and his confidence bringing the ball out will be crucial to the way Villa play. Darren Bent will be key to their hopes this season; if he fires the goals in the Villa faithful will stay up with ease, but an injury (or lack of form) to the £24 million man will see them struggle.
It would be a surprise if the transfer window came and went without them signing another striker as back up to Darren Bent. If he can stay fit Villa will certainly be looking to improve on last season’s 16th place finish. With the three clubs promoted last season all facing up to possible second season syndrome, the three promoted teams and the perennial strugglers including Wigan, Villa should be looking at safety in mid table with a view to next season.