Aston Villa have strengthened their squad this summer by bringing in Karim El Ahmadi, Brett Holman and Matt Lowton, but it is up front where manager Paul Lambert must now focus his energies.
He will be helped by the return of key man Darren Bent, who made his first appearance for Aston Villa on Saturday in a 2-1 victory in a pre-season friendly match against Burton Albion. Bent had been missing from the Villa first team since late February where he damaged ankle ligaments playing against Wigan. He will no doubt be a welcome sight for supporters.
Lambert will be aware of what happened to Aston Villa without their key striker last season, and will look to bring someone in to avoid a similar situation. Without Bent, Villa only managed eight league goals in 12 league games, pulling them into a relegation battle that they only narrowly avoided.
With Villa youth product Gabriel Agbonlahor out of form and Emile Heskey providing support but not finishing enough opportunities, it was left to Villa youngster Andreas Weimann to lead the line towards the end of last season. Although he scored two league goals, his lack of experience was there for all to see, as Villa struggled to a 16th place finish. Heskey was released at the end of the last campaign, leaving Bent and Agbonlahor as the only two recognised senior strikers in the team. Nathan Delfouneso and Weimann will be pushing for a place, but at 21 and 20-years-old respectively, neither is considered the finished article just yet.
Following the victory at Burton Albion on Saturday, the name of Andy Carroll was mentioned to the Villa boss, who had this to say on the £35 million man (see ESPN):
If Liverpool were to part ways with Carroll, they would want to recoup most of the £35 million they spent on attaining his services from Newcastle in January 2011. With Villa not having that kind of money to spend, a loan move would be the most likely option for Lambert, as new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers looks to reshape his squad. Villa would face stiff competition for his signature if he were made available by Rodgers, with West Ham, a return to Newcastle, and even a move to the Seria A with AC Milan being mentioned (see The Guardian).
Lambert has so far based his transfers on players who are hungry to prove themselves in the top level of English football, and Carroll would fall into that category having not answered his critics so far at Liverpool. Carroll will not be the only man that Lambert is keeping his eye on though, as he looks to add firepower to a team that is shaping up nicely for the start of the 2012-2013 campaign.
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