Having narrowly avoided relegation last season, it has been another busy summer for Paul Lambert in terms of new arrivals at Villa Park. The Scotsman managed to do most of his business early on, raiding the Danish Superliga for highly-rated duo Jores Okore and Nicklas Helenius. Aleksander Tonev, Leandro Bacuna and Antonio Luna have also joined up but arguably Lambert's biggest signing of the summer was Christian Benteke. After much speculation, the striker withdrew his transfer request and put pen to paper on a new deal, bringing an end to a saga that threatened to overshadow Villa's preparations for the new campaign.
Lambert's policy of investing in youth and building a team for the future almost cost him dearly last season but his young side managed to avoid the drop thanks to some inspired performances towards the end of the campaign. Opting to bring in unproven talent from abroad and the lower leagues was a bold gamble for Lambert to take in his debut season but he appears to have given his side a platform to build on in coming years. His footballing philosophies mean it could be an exciting year ahead.
Ins and Outs
- Jores Okore - £4m
- Leandro Bacuna - £3m
- Aleksandar Tonev - £2.5m
- Richard Dunne - Free
- Brett Holman - Free
- Jean Makoun - Free
Since making his big-money move from Leeds United in 2009, the 23-year old's Villa career has been hampered by injuries but he now looks ready to silence his critics.
The Belgian striker took the Premier League by storm last season, netting 19 times in his debut campaign and becoming Villa's talisman in the process.
Having claimed the No.1 shirt from Shay Given, there is no questioning the American goalkeeper single-handedly won points for Villa at times last season.
Strengths & weaknesses
At times last season, Lambert's youthful side brushed teams away with their well-drilled attacking football - just look at the demolitions of Liverpool and Sunderland. But with youth often comes inexperience and that showed at times, the case in point being the barren run of form which followed the 8-0 defeat at Chelsea. Going forward, Lambert is blessed with a number of options in front of goal but, defensively, the squad appears to lack depth and they were often susceptible to last season, conceding the most of any team to avoid relegation.
Since splashing £10million on five new faces by the start of July, it has been fairly quiet for Villa with regards to any further signings. Speculation about new arrivals since then has been few and far between, with Lambert seemingly content with his squad. A shared lack of Premier League experience between the new additions means they may require patience but Lambert's transfer record is something which will surely fill the Villa faithful with confidence. The pending exit of Darren Bent has been the main topic of discussion in recent weeks, with Lambert clearly keen to offload the striker.
"The new lads that have come in still need a bit of time to settle. But that's why we've done it as early as we did to give them that feeling of what the British game's like. These lads are going to give it a right go."
"I think we have signed some good players with good qualities. It will make us more unique and they can make a difference for us and help us to perform well."
Facts and Figures
Percentage of Villa's goals scored by Christian Benteke
League-high number of penalties conceded by Villa
Benteke was offside more than any other player in 2012/13's Premier League
League-low number of goals scored by Villa substitutes
Brad Guzan conceded more goals than any other Premier League goalkeeper
Paul Lambert needs to keep bringing the young lads through and get better than they were last year. They must not put themselves in the same situation as they were last year when they left themselves a lot to do towards the end of the season and eventually got out of the relegation scrap. They still need to continue to try to improve those young players and give them an opportunity and get up the league towards where they should be. That is what I would like to see from Aston Villa.