The scene of men running around Bodymoor Heath in training bras signalled the start of preseason for Aston Villa and the proverbial waking-up from last year’s nightmare.
The Paul Lambert revolution is only in its infancy so far. The first key backroom staff of Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa (Norwich fans must love us) are in place, and on top of the inherited signing of Australian player of the year Brett Holman, comes Karim El Ahmadi from Feyenoord. A ball-winning midfielder, who, based on the video evidence we’ve all seen, could be one of the more canny buys of the transfer window.
When a new manager comes to a club, the first phrases you’re likely to hear mentioned in the press from players are: ‘it’s a fresh start’ or ‘the slate has been wiped cleaned’. Something tells me this won’t be the case under the new Lambert administration.
With Villa enduring four managers within two seasons, when you count Kevin MacDonald and Gary McAllister, the slate has almost worn out from the constant wiping.
Preseason will be very much about certain players proving themselves good enough for the rise of ambition that Lambert will instill in the team. Indeed, the first few weeks of preseason will be something of a last chance saloon for some.
What will become of the injury-plagued enigma that is Fabian Delph. When MON brought him to Villa from Leeds, we thought it would be an astute buy on the same level of Ashley Young. Finally, Villa would have a midfield dynamo, in the ilk of Steven Gerrard – able to score screamers, boss the midfield and turn games.
Without a steady run in the team, Delph main ability seems to be giving the ball away. While he looks composed on the ball and has graceful movement, his confidence has been all over the place. Others have stepped over him in the pecking order, with Gary Gardner the new great ‘white hope’ (as in the boxing phrase). Gardner may be a season or two away from staking his claim to regular first-team football, so Delph might have a small window of opportunity…
Well, that was until Karim El Ahmadi came along. A player, who for starters, seems to be a better and more ripened version of Delph.
There’s several Villa players on their last lives at Villa Park – including Hutton, Warnock, Dunne, Collins, Delph, Bannan, Ireland, Delfouneso and even N’Zogbia – so this preseason, will be perhaps the most interesting in recent memory for Villa fans.
After it, begins the latest of Villa’s transitional seasons. Hopefully Lambert with one more scrub of the slate and a fresh start that stays that way, can get to the stage next season, when he only has to think about buying the final pieces of his jigsaw.
(All pics from www.avfc.co.uk)
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