The MOMS Scouting Report: Six Summer Signings to Improve the Aston Villa squad

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By Shelley Osbourne

Lambert’s Summer

After the drastic initial overhaul of the Aston Villa squad and the bottom-line of survival achieved, Paul Lambert, will be the first Villa manager since Martin O’Neil to have the chance to continue building a squad for a consecutive season. We’ve already looked at merits of the current squad, so now with the summer transfer window on the horizon, we look in more detail at the possible additions it may bring.

Of course, as we’ve already experienced, it’s folly to second-guess Lambert, who’s signings have had many a Villa fan heading straight to Google to gain insight into his transfer purchases, but, hey, there’s no harm in trying.

The summer break was usually a somewhat tedious affair for Villa fans under the Martin O’Neill regime as the manager only usually signed players during the last week of the transfer window.  Paul Lambert, thankfully, has not inherited this maddening habit from his former mentor and ‘gaffer’.

Talks with the likes of Weimann and Benteke, regarding their futures at the club, will take place over the next few weeks, and then, having been forced to use the beginning of last season effectively as an extended preseason, Lambert will ideally bring in any new acquisitions as early as possible in order to join the pre season tour and have the team bedded down for the season ahead.

Six positions have been identified which Lambert may look to reinforce and strengthen the squad before the beginning of the 2013 / 2014 campaign.  Those positions are centre back, left back, defensive midfielder, attacking midfield, winger and striker.

 

For Your Consideration

 

Below we evaluate various transfer options for each position and recommend a signing for each position.

 

Centre Back

 

It’s a position most supporters were crying out for reinforcements in the January window, so the most eye-catching transfer link in recent weeks has been Andreas Weimann’s Austrian team-mate, Alexsandar Dragovic.  The 22-year-old FC Basle centre back has enjoyed an impressive season.  This isn’t the first year that Dragovic’s performances have caught the eye, but Basle’s extended cup run in the Europa Cup has focused attention more keenly on the commanding young centre back.   Dragovic wants to move to the Premier League and is good friends with Weimann.  Time to pick up the phone, Paul?

Another centre back link to Aston Villa in recent weeks has been James Chester.  Lambert was previously interested in James Chester during last summer’s transfer window, and some reports suggest that Lambert’s interest in the ex-Manchester United academy centre back dates back further.  The stumbling block is Steve Bruce’s steely determination to hold onto the boy, and Hull’s promotion to the Premier League.  Now that Chester is a Premier League player, an inflated transfer fee could scupper any further moves.

Marcelo is a 25-year-old centre back who currently plays for PSV Eindhoven.  6ft 3, quick, strong and athletic, he might be an option Lambert has considered due to the fact that there are reports that Lambert has again been scouting players in Holland and Belgium.

 

Verdict:  Dragovic.  Quality player and potentially a great investment for the Lambert project.

 

Left Back

 

Aaron Creswell has enjoyed rapid progress in recent seasons and deservedly won a transfer from Tranmere to Ipswich in 2011.  Lambert showed an interest in Cresswell in the summer of 2012, but Cresswell had only been at the Ipswich for one season at that stage.  Cresswell now has another season under his belt and could be more amenable to a transfer to the Premier League.  Similar in style to Leighton Baines (rather than Bennett who is more of an Clichy type of left back), he would offer a great option in the squad when considering that two players are needed for each position in the squad.

Victorino Antunes is a Portuguese left back who was previously linked to Aston Villa in 2007.  He is now 26 years old and is on loan with Malaga (previously on loan at Roma).  Antunes returns to his parent club Pacos Ferreira at the end of the season and will be looking for a new club.  Antunes has stepped into the Malaga team to replace Nacho who moved to Arsenal and has played some very impressive games recently including scoring a great goal against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in a 3-2 defeat.

Ryan Bertrand may find himself short of games next season if Chelsea proceed with the potential transfer of Luke Shaw from Southampton.  He fits the Lambert profile, but it is likely that he would want to remain at Chelsea and work under Jose Mourinho if/when he returns to Chelsea this summer.

 

Verdict:  Cresswell.  Competition for places is vital.  Cresswell is a better defensive player to Joe Bennett and would be a great addition.

 

Defensive Midfield

 

James McCarthy is a player Aston Villa should have sought to sign two seasons ago.  The immense potential he is showing now was all too obvious as a younger player.  Wigan’s FA Cup win has increased McCarthy’s value immeasurably, and James’s admirers have grown in numbers.  McCarthy has been strongly linked to Everton, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham, but it may be worth finding out what his plans are anyway.  More than a defensive player, he is a leader, a driving force in midfield, creative and capable of finishing off moves too.  Comfortably worth the £10m transfer fee touted.

 Raoul Loe is an imposing 23-year-old defensive midfielder developing nicely at Osasuna.  Loe may be a much cheaper option for Lambert than McCarthy.  Osasuna are a team in financial administration and simply must sell players this summer.  Loe is arguably their best midfielder and has room to develop further.  Loe notably scored a good goal against Barcelona at the Camp Nou this season to suggest he has goals in his locker too.

Liam Bridcutt, as Villa fans will know, has been linked with a move to Villa throughout the season.  Following Brighton’s failure to gain promotion and Gus Poyet’s recent resignation, the opportunity to sign Liam Bridcutt presents itself kindly to Paul Lambert this summer.  Fulham and Norwich have also expressed an interest.

 

Verdict:  Bridcutt.  Part of the same Chelsea academy team as the very impressive Jack Cork, Bridcutt has the potential to add much needed steel to the Aston Villa midfield.

 

Attacking Midfield

 

Crewe’s Luke Murphy recently revealed that he is ready to step up to a higher level. So far,  Celtic have shown a considerable interest in the Crewe youngster, as have Stoke.  Luke may however prefer to join Aston Villa due to his previous successful partnership with Ashley Westwood.  Luke is more a goal scoring midfielder than a creative advanced playmaker, but Luke’s tally of 21 goals from centre midfield at the young age of 23 is certainly impressive.  Lambert appears to be a huge fan of Luke and has scouted him many times before.  It would be a safe bet to assume that a bid will be made to Crewe for the player in the summer.

Another goal scoring midfielder option is the in-form Valladolid central midfielder, Oscar Gonzalez.  Oscar is this seasons ‘Michu’ in La Liga.  He has scored 12 goals from midfield this season and has an impressive 7 assists.  At 30- years of age he may not fit Lambert’s profile of player, but he would probably be a cheap addition to the squad.

A younger and incredibly talented youngster Aston Villa were linked to last summer was the 18–year-old Serb, Filip Jankovic who currently plays for Red Star Belgrade.  Jankovic is more of a creative midfielder, although he also scores a fair amount of goals similarly to Luca Modric.  Being 18 years of age would not put Randy Lerner off as we have seen from the signing of Fabian Delph, but Villa might face stiff competition from Parma for his signature.

 

Verdict:  Murphy.  Lambert seems very keen to sign this player and other options may only be pursued if the player decides to move elsewhere.

 

Winger

 

Aston Villa have arguably played the entire 2012 / 2013 season without a single wing option.  This position of the pitch must surely be high on the list of Lambert’s priorities to strengthen.

Jefferson Montero is a 23-year-old Ecuadorian left winger who recently played in La Liga for Real Betis during the 2011 / 2012 season.  Montero is incredibly fast and extremely strong.  The young winger has a low centre of gravity at 5’7 inches and memorably played two very impressive games during the 2011 / 2012 season.  Chiefly, his performance for Betis against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu was a standout game, whilst Montero then played an equally impressive match against Leo Messi’s Argentina for his native Ecuador.  Available from Morelia due to the fact he wishes to return to Europe, Montero may be available for as little as £2m – £3m.  Montero has the potential to be worth ten times that figure and would be a worthwhile addition to the squad.

 Valentin Stocker is another player who has impressed for FC Basle this season in the Europa League.  Part of a Swiss under-21 team that produced extremely attractive football, Stocker is a creative, intelligent winger compared to the pace and power of the athletic Montero.  Lambert’s signings have leaned towards players with noticeable football intelligence and Stocker possesses this attribute in abundance.

Albert Adomah is a winger at Bristol City who recently represented Ghana in the African nations tournament this January.  Rumoured to have been scouted by Lambert, he is 25 years of age now and is also being tracked by Crystal Palace, who have a habit of accumulating promising wing talents such as Victor Moses, Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie.  Adomah has played some impressive games for Bristol City this season and has scored some vital goals for the ‘Robins’.

 

Verdict:  Stocker.  Villa need a player to break down teams from the wide positions when teams sit back at Villa Park.  These skills are not currently possessed in the play of Agbonlahor or Weimann, who rely more on their pace and counter attacks.

 

Striker

 

Following Darren Bent’s likely departure this summer, Lambert maybe looking to add another striker to the squad.  Having brought in two target men (Benteke and Bowery) during the previous summer transfer window it is unknown what kind of player Lambert would be looking for in a new forward.

 Iago Aspas is a forward who currently plays for Celta Vigo in La Liga.  Aspas is an extremely skillful and creative player and he is perhaps most similar in style to Luis Suarez.  Aspas is not really a number 9 or number 10, he prefers to drift into positions Suarez occupies in the inside left and Inside right forward position.  Aspas is an extremely intelligent player and would link up brilliantly with Benteke in my opinion.  Aspas was set to join Valencia this summer, but the Valencia President Manuel Llorente quit last month and the new President was allegedly far from impressed by Aspas’s red card against Deportivo for a ludicrous (although out of character) headbutt.  The proposed signing appears to have therefore fallen through.  Aspas would be available for around £6m – £7m and he would more than justify this transfer fee as he is a quality, quality player.

The Times football journalist Duncan Castles recently linked Aston Villa to a move for Thievy Bifouma who is owned by Catalan club Espanyol.  The young French striker has played his football this season for Las Palmas in the Spanish second division and the under 21 international’s biggest career achievement to date was a hat trick against (an admittedly weak) Barcelona in the Copa Catalunya final.   Lambert’s thinking may be understandable in this regard.  Established young French players have demanded sizeable transfer fees in recent seasons due to Arsene Wenger’s successful exploitation of the French market.  Therefore young French players who have made the move to Spain, such as Bifouma, often prove to be better value.

Another forward plying his trade in the Spanish lower divisions is wing forward Federico Vico who plays for Cordoba.  At 18 years of age, Vico is a young Spanish prospect who would be an exciting addition to the Aston Villa squad.  Vico has represented Spain at under 17, 18, 19 and 20 level and has been dubbed as a future Cristiano Ronaldo.  Still rather early to see if he develops to the level hoped, the transfer may be a gamble Lambert would be willing to take.

 

Verdict:  Aspas.  Unbelievable talent and a player who would add extra dimension and guile to the Aston Villa squad.

 

The six summer signings recommended to improve the Aston Villa squad are therefore: Dragovic, Cresswell, Bridcutt, Murphy, Stocker and Asapas.

Let us know who’s on your shopping list. Feel free to add the players you’ve scouted into the mix by putting them in the comments section below

 

Follow Shelley on twitter at @shelley_ozzy

Follow MOMS on twitter at @oldmansaid

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