Recent captures a sea-change in Aston Villa transfer policy
It was in June 2012 when Aston Villa traded one Scotsman for another, as Alex McLeish cleared his desk and Paul Lambert took over the hotseat at Villa Park.
Lambert was fresh off a reputation-enhancing spell at Norwich, where he enjoyed back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League. Today, his reputation isn’t quite so chipper.
After two seasons at the helm, both of which resulted in 15th place finishes, it rightly prompts questions on whether the West Midlands club are really moving forward. After all, McLeish was sacked for a 16th place finish.
Club owner Randy Lerner reined in the exorbitant spending of the Martin O’Neill era, so Lambert had to adopt prudent ideals when he took over at Villa. The West Midlands outfit became a breeding ground for young and talented Englishmen plucked from the lower leagues.
Eventually, the team could mould and grow in the Premier League which of course would establish the players and club, thus increasing their market value after being brought at a steal. It’s an admirable idea, but recent Villa transfer activity suggests a lucid turnaround in his beliefs given the lack of progression over the last three seasons.
Matt Lowton, Ashley Westwood and Joe Bennett were all plucked from League One in the summer of 2012 and have featured on a regular basis. Nathan Baker, Gary Gardner and Fabian Delph are three other young, relatively inexperienced Englishmen who have been consistent starters for Villa.
Ciaran Clark (Republic of Ireland), Andreas Weimann (Austria) and Chris Herd (Australia) are three other youngsters who have featured prominently over the last two campaigns, whilst injured talisman Christian Benteke is only 23.
The big Belgian, who should return to action before Christmas, is 40/1 to be leading Premier League marksman. This price factors in both Benteke’s lengthy lay-off and the diminished status of Villa.
At the beginning of last season, they had the youngest squad on average in the Premier League at 24 years and 64 days. Lambert appears to have deduced the correlation between his squad and their tepid top-flight showings and called for an experienced cavalry.
The additions of Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson this summer are curious at best. Cole featured intermittently last term for West Ham and to say his best days are behind him wold be generous.
Rio Ferdinand’s signing for QPR, for instance, has been made with a view to exerting influence on the dressing room. Cole and Richardson, predominantly wide-men, seem speculative in the best light.
Philippe Senderos is another peculiar deal. Ridiculed as something of a comedy figure in his Arsenal days, he did precious little to further his reputation at Everton and then Fulham.
Jores Okore is a promising centre-half who unfortunately missed last season through a serious knee injury. If he returns to fitness alongside Ron Vlaar, fresh from his impressive World Cup, Villa have reason to be optimistic in that area.
It is a wonder how much of the wage budget has been taken up by these three transfers and what actual affect they can have on the pitch or in the changing room. Could it be a case of right idea, wrong execution once again?
Coral have Villa at 5/2 for the drop, making them joint-fourth favourites with Second City neighbours West Brom for the dreaded trapdoor.