Potential Aston Villa January Transfer Targets to Upgrade Villa’s Midfield
Aston Villa have now played 10 league games in the 2013 / 2014 season. Paul Lambert’s men have accumulated 11 points and sit in 14th place, level on points with Swansea. It is a small improvement on the start Villa made to last season in terms of points, and the fixtures themselves have been much more difficult.
Stats aside, the winter transfer window is less than two months away (not that I’m counting!) and as Lambert’s squad is a work in progress, further additions are required to improve weak areas of the team. At the moment Villa have a group of central midfielders who lack specialist skills. There is a similarity in some ways between Paul Lambert and Martin O’Neill, as the current manager seems to prefer central midfielders who do a little bit of everything. Westwood, Delph and co are the ‘inbetweeners’ as they can defend a bit and attack a bit. What I’d like to see now are more specialist quality players around the young, hard-working players in Lambert’s squad.
Ashley Westwood and Karim El Ahmadi are of course deep-lying playmakers. They prefer to help break up play and start attacks. Defensively, El Ahmadi has been the better of the two this season with 39 tackles in 9 appearances. Ashley Westwood, by comparison, has only made 7 tackles in 8 appearances and some may argue that Westwood should play with a defensive midfielder behind him, rather than be the player who screens the back four.
Gary Gardner and Fabian Delph are box-to-box midfielders who like to cover the pitch, make tackles, and dictate play. We haven’t seen much of Delph’s attacking flair so far this season, and Gardner is yet to recover from a back injury. Delph has dribbled the ball 26 times for Villa, but disappointingly he has only attempted 5 shots on goal. Having an attacking midfielder to pass the ball to in the attacking third would help Delph provide a link between defence and attack.
Yacouba Sylla is a defensive midfielder who Lambert has used in various midfield positions. Sylla has only fleetingly played this season in contrast to the end of last season and it appears that Sylla is not entirely trusted by Lambert to protect the back four. Lambert often prefers to play Westwood there, but I’m not sure why since when Lambert switched Westwood to play in front of Sylla last season, Westwood made four assists in consecutive games against Sunderland and Norwich.
Furthermore, creativity out wide is also an area of concern for Villa. The lack of creativity in wide positions has been a real issue for Villa since Young, Milner and Downing left the club. These quality players have not been replaced properly by McLeish or indeed Lambert. This season, Gabby has been the most effective player out wide with two assists. Andi Weimann, meanwhile, has struggled. A welcome addition to the wide areas came this weekend however as Matthew Lowton returned to the team. The youngster provided two key passes in the attacking third of the pitch against West Ham, including a cross for Benteke which the Belgium striker powered against the cross bar. Lowton is a vital player in attack as only Benteke and Gabby currently provide more key passes per game than Lowton.
What Villa lack in wide areas (other than Matthew Lowton) is an ability to creates chances when the game slows down. Gabby and Weimann suffer badly when they do not have space to attack and they find it difficult to break down defences. An intelligent wide player would therefore be an important addition for Aston Villa in the attacking third.
Paul Lambert said this week that his ultimate aim was to push Villa towards the top six. In pursuit of that aim, the three positions I would most like to see arrive in January are; an attacking midfielder, a dominant defensive midfielder and a creative winger (continued on page 2).