It has been a quiet few weeks for Aston Villa on the transfer front following the arrivals of Matt Lowton, Karim El Ahmadi and Brett Holman in early July, as new manager Paul Lambert has been assessing his squad during Villa’s tour of America. Although the squad contains experienced senior Internationals such as Darren Bent, Richard Dunne, Shay Given and Stephen Ireland, it may well be the younger contingent that holds the key to success in this and in future seasons.
Since Martin O’Neill’s departure in August 2010, Villa have sold many of their key players who were instrumental in achieving consecutive sixth place league finishes during the former manager’s tenure. Players such as James Milner, Ashley Young, Brad Freidel, Stewart Downing and John Carew have all left in that short two-year spell, and with Villa cutting costs as much as possible, several of these players have not been replaced.
It has therefore been up to Villa’s youth players to step up and make a name for themselves during this time, and Lambert must get the best out of these young stars if Villa are to become a force once more. During former manager Gerard Houllier’s time in charge during the 2010/2011 season, winger Marc Albrighton was given his first major run in the team after graduating from the Villa youth system. He impressed with his quick feet and excellent crossing, and proved himself to be an exciting talent towards the end of that campaign. He did not enjoy the best of season’s last time out, with Alex McLeish preferring to use him predominantly off the bench. Lambert may have other ideas for the exciting winger, who could prove to be a key player at Villa Park this season.
Barry Bannan and Nathan Delfouneso have been two Villa youngsters who have flirted with the first team for several years now, with neither ever really establishing themselves as a first team regular. Bannan started off well under McLeish, but following his charge for driving whilst intoxicated and without a licence back in November, he couldn’t recapture the form that saw him break into the first team, and was used very much as a bit part player. Delfouneso was given his first opportunity back in December 2008, but has since only gone on to make 30 appearances for the club, and has been sent out on loan for parts of the last two seasons. His form in pre-season has been impressive, and Lambert may just feel it is now his chance to shine.
Australian defensive midfielder Chris Herd also had a very successful season last season, establishing himself as a first team regular under McLeish. He will be another option for Lambert, although the acquisition of El-Ahmadi may force Herd out of the team and back onto the Villa substitute bench.
Villa’s youth system has always proven to be a success over the years. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ciaran Clark are just two of the current Aston Villa first team who have successfully worked their way up to becoming key players. It will be such youth players that will provide any future success for Aston Villa, and Lambert will have to make sure that he gets the best out of these players if he is to have a successful first season in charge.
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