Aston Villa transfer focus – Lambert makes first steps in the market

Karim El Ahmadi, Matthew Lowton and Brett Holman may not be household names, but Aston Villa’s three new signings all offer something different to the current playing staff and could turn into key assets for the club.

Brett Holman is a 28-year-old Australian midfielder who can play across the midfield or as a second striker. He agreed to move to Villa under Alex McLeish’s disastrous tenure back in early March, penning a pre-contract with the club and officially signing on a free transfer in July. Starting his career in his native Australia with Northern Spirit and Parramatta Power, he got his big break with Dutch side Feyenoord in 2002 aged 18. Although he did not manage to progress into the first team, a successful loan spell at Excelsior earned him a move to Eredivisie side N.E.C in 2006.

He went on to score 13 goals in 59 appearances for N.E.C and assisted several others in a successful two-year spell, which did not go unnoticed by AZ Alkmaar, who signed Holman for £2.5 million in the summer of 2008. He was used predominantly as a squad player during Alkmaar’s title winning season of 2008-09, but was given his chance under new Alkmaar manager Dick Advocaat. In four years with the club he made 92 appearances, scoring 16 goals. Villa have acquired a player with great technical ability in Brett Holman, but he will need time to adjust to the Premier League.

El Ahmadi is a 27-year-old defensive midfielder who, like Holman, has also spent the entirety of his senior football career in Holland. FC Twente saw the potential of El Ahmadi early on, and signed the combative midfielder to their youth system. He made his debut in 2004 and helped the club to the Champions League. In 2008 he moved to Feyenoord for just under €5m, making 94 appearances for the club.

Whilst not always being first choice, his calm nature and precision tackling caught the eye of Paul Lambert, who agreed to part with £2.5m to bring the Moroccan to Villa Park. Since the departure of Gareth Barry to Manchester City in 2009, Aston Villa have lacked that player to anchor the midfield; a player who can dictate the pace of a game. In El Ahmadi, they may have found a hidden gem that can do exactly that.

Lowton may be a slightly more familiar name, having played his football in England with Sheffield United. The 23-year-old right back has been a permanent fixture in a Sheffield United side who almost gained promotion to the Championship last season, having narrowly lost the play-off Final to Huddersfield. Starting off as a central defender, Lowton will look to follow in the footsteps of fellow Sheffield United youngster Kyle Walker, who enjoyed a brief spell at Villa Park.

Villa will be looking to improve on last season’s disastrous campaign, and Paul Lambert has made his move early on in the transfer market. Villa fans should expect to see a few more players leave, and possibly a few more come in, but they can look to the start of the season much more positively this time around.

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