With the kick off to the Premier League season is less than two weeks away, Aston Villa’s new signings are settling in well, as they look to help Villa improve on their poor showing last season.
New manager Paul Lambert was quick to identify the weak areas of the squad, and moved promptly to fix these areas. A new support striker in Brett Holman was brought in before Lambert’s arrival, so he set to work on other positions that needed to be strengthened.
Karim El-Ahmadi was a player that he had looked at during his time at Norwich, having studied his impressive form in Dutch football for Feyenoord and FC Twente. Not since Gareth Barry was at the club have Villa had a ball playing defensive midfielder, a player who can not only break up the play from the opposition, but also dictate the play in an attacking sense. So far in his pre-season appearances, El-Ahmadi looks set to be that player, and looks to be a terrific capture for Lambert costing the club just under £3 million. He is expected to make a huge difference to the way Villa play both at home, and away from Villa Park this season.
One area that was in desperate need of strengthening all season was in the full back areas. Former manager Alex McLeish tried several different approaches to help solve the issue, from switching personnel to even switching formation. With dependable right back Luke Young joining QPR at the start of McLeish’s reign, and the loss of Kyle Walker who returned to his parent club Tottenham, he knew he would have to bring in a player to replace them, eventually deciding that Alan Hutton was to be that player. It was a decision that backfired on McLeish, as Hutton failed to impress, prompting many Villa fans to question his place in the team.
Eric Lichaj, Carlos Cuellar and Nathan Baker were all given a chance during the season to step up and command the right back position, but each failed to do so. Lambert will now lay that responsibility on former Sheffield United right-back Matt Lowton, who he has brought in and declared will have a great future at Aston Villa. He has looked sharp and energetic in pre-season, but Lambert knows that it will be his tactical awareness and strength of mind which will need to be worked on if he is to make the right-back spot his own.
Lambert’s latest signing is Ron Vlaar. He will have to hit the ground running due to the injury suffered to Richard Dunne at Euro 2012. Given the name ’Concrete’ during his spell in Dutch football due to his sheer physical strength, Vlaar was given an early test against Ishmael Miller during Saturday’s friendly against Nottingham. Although Villa would go on to lose the game, their first under Lambert, Vlaar certainly lived up to his name with a series of impressive tackles and interceptions. Vlaar looks to be in good shape as the start of the season draws closer and he will need to stay strong and be commanding with the loss of Dunne and the sale of James Collins to former club West Ham.
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