It has been exciting for me to watch England’s progression in respect of style of play since Euro 2012. The introduction of young blood has added much needed variety to a national team that had become predictable and stale. The England team are still a work in progress, but with youngsters such as Stones, Shaw, Barkley and Ward-Prowse to join the ranks in future, England fans have every reason for optimism.
Villa fans, however, are some what more pensive this summer with the club currently in limbo and the owner having bid his pious farewells. The break up of Paul Lambert’s coaching team has added to the general void of leadership in Villa’s hierarchy and with no-one really knowing how things will shape up before the start of the 2014/15 season.
The early summer months have seen the arrival of Joe Cole and Phillipe Senderos, whilst Jordan Bowery has departed to join Rotherham.
Paul Lambert has remained tight-lipped since Lerner’s announcement but he has quietly intimated that he would be looking to bring in players this summer who are experienced and who have played in the Premier League. Personally, I am not a fan of such restrictive policies in the transfer market. The overriding aim of the manager should be to sign quality players to improve the first team, whether a player is young, old or has Premier League experience. Villa have enough squad players, what the team really needs is quality.
Lambert’s earlier policy of signing young, cheap first team players from lower leagues or Europe resulted in the signings of Tonev, Sylla and Luna whilst overlooking players available in the loan market such as Gareth Barry. In addition, Lambert’s new policy of targeting experienced Premier League players already saw the arrival of Grant Holt in January whose inauspicious time at the club coincided with a dreadful run of results. The player himself spent most of his time on the bench having previously been excluded from Wigan’s Europa League games by Uwe Rosler in order to ‘work on his fitness’.
These kind of red flags will need to be heeded in future by the manager if he to avoid making similar mistakes. In austere times it is crucial, if not vital, to make smart moves in the transfer market in order to keep the club’s head above water in what is likely to be another challenging season.
A perfect market for Villa
Lambert should be scouring the loan market to see which young players are available to loan from Champions League clubs. Roberto Martinez proved conclusively last season that intelligent moves in the loan market can transform a club’s league position as well as its desirability to players. No longer are Everton a dour team who grind out one-nil wins at Goodison Park, they are a team who excite and entertain their fans. Should Lambert use the loan market to bring in players to excite the fan base then it could have a similar impact for Villa.
Ryan Bertrand (a defender) and Grant Holt (a largely unused striker) have not made the sort of impact that Barry, Lukaku and Deulofeu made for Everton.
Since the introduction of Financial Fair Play (or perhaps more aptly named protectionism) elite clubs have been stock piling talented youngsters who they are desperate to farm out to play first team football. Greg Dyke’s ‘B’ team idea was a response to the fact that there are talented youngsters sitting at top clubs who are not playing football. It is a market which Lambert could exploit for the benefit of Aston Villa. Players such as Chelsea’s Thorgan Hazard, Piazon and Atsu are three players who would instantly improve Lambert’s team.
The fact that Villa have been bumping around along the bottom of the league would have no influence on a club like Chelsea’s decision to loan players to Paul Lambert, as we saw with Bertrand. Elite clubs prefer to loan players to clubs who will ensure that their youngsters obtain maximum playing time. For this reason it is unlikely that Chelsea will loan players to Liverpool again next season as they are rivals, and because they barely played Victor Moses last season.
A lot of clubs waive loan fees if a youngster has accumulated enough playing time, such as Barcelona’s arrangement with Everton regarding Gerard Deulofeu. The more he played, the less Everton paid as a loan fee. A win-win for both parties.
Despite dismissing the idea of it when he came to club, the loan market may well be the only opportunity Paul Lambert has to bring in real quality this summer and it is something I hope he exploits to its maximum potential.It is the perfect solution to a club like Villa who are looking for a new owner.
So far, so good?
In terms of Villa’s new arrivals, Senderos was always a stop-gap for Valencia who spent most of last season on the verge of being sold to Peter Lim. Valencia are now making serious moves in the market following their sale and Senderos has become disposable. In his Arsenal days, Senderos had some issues with the physicality of Drogba and against physical centre forwards he is certainly not the best. Senderos passing game is competent enough and he may well complement the more muscular presence of Ron Vlaar, if Lambert is to play them together.
Joe Cole is a player who struggled to make an impact at West Ham last season and who isn’t really a Sam Allardyce player in any event. Reading between the lines it appears that Lambert has assured Cole that he will be guaranteed the number 10 position next season.
I am not sure that this is a wise move from Lambert. I had the pleasure of watching Joe play for Chelsea when I worked at the club during Jose Mourinho’s first spell at the club and Cole was certainly an exciting and explosive player when playing right-wing forward in Jose’s favoured 4-3-3 formation. However, I never really considered him to have the attributes of a number ten in those days.
Like Charles N’Zogbia, Cole’s strength lies in dribbling and crossing which, after Albrighton’s departure, could be useful to the team next season along with the return of Samir Carruthers. Although linking play and through balls in tight spaces is not really something I associate with Joe Cole, although he may have developed greater creative awareness as an experienced player. Wingers such as Ryan Giggs have developed an ability to play centrally and provide creativity when their legs have aged and this may well be true of Joe.
One development I am looking forward to with interest is the rumour that Lambert is looking to bring in a defensive midfielder. If this is true then finally Lambert will have abandoned the idea that Westwood, Delph, Karim El Ahmadi or formerly Barry Bannan can play defensive midfield. The potential benefit of signing a more robust defensive midfielder appears endless with players such as Grealish and Carruthers likely to benefit the most. The introduction of a new defensive midfielder would of course help the defence, full backs and indeed Delph and Westwood who would enjoy a freer role to play from box-to-box (in Delph’s case) and make passes further up the pitch (in Westwood’s case).
There are doubtless more moves to be made this summer in the transfer market and it will be interesting to see if the manager does indeed opt for youthful quality in the loan market to freshen the team up.
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