Of all the teams in the Premier League this summer, none have signed more players than Aston Villa, who have recently added numbers four and five, Aalborg striker Nicklas Helenius, and left-back Antonio Luna, who arrives from Sevilla.
Both are young, highly-rated, and very likely to command a place in manager Paul Lambert’s starting XIs next season. However, with Helenius being 6ft 5in tall, he would in all likelihood be used in a similar way to Villa’s current star striker Christian Benteke, who is being persistently linked with a move away, so it is unlikely for that both will be on the same pitch together often. For this reason, the signing of Helenius raises questions over whether he was signed as the Belgian’s replacement or merely as back-up.
Villa have not yet resolved the situation concerning Benteke. Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Atletico Madrid have all been rumoured to be interested, and the player himself has encouraged speculation with previous statements to the press. Despite that, as of yet, it is not known whether any offers have been made.
If Benteke does leave, Lambert will look upon 22-year-old Helenius to perform a similar role up front, providing a physical presence and a target to aim for, and the team’s tactics would remain the same. The Danes form for Aalborg last season was impressive, with 16 goals in 33 league appearances as his side finished fifth, form which confirms his potential, but the Premier League will be a completely different challenge for him.
Benteke adapted quickly and successfully to the Premier League with Lambert able to get the best out of him from the beginning, with a goal on his debut. Form was maintained throughout the season, with some match-winning displays. Supporters will expect Helenius to settle just as well, but this partly depends on whether Benteke is still at the club by the end of August.
A frontline comprising both Benteke and Helenius is an unlikely prospect, unless Lambert begins to employ very direct tactics, something which he is not remotely known for. Benteke should remain first-choice, but Helenius is unlikely to have joined in anticipation of a regular place amongst the substitutes. As a manager who likes to give young players an opportunity, former Norwich City boss Lambert should find a solution.
The Scot has already told the club’s official website that Helenius will get his chance, explaining: “Nicklas
Luna, also 22, comes in after making 17 appearances last season, the second half of which was spent on loan at Real Mallorca. He has been signed to provide competition with Joe Bennett for the left-back slot, which was held by the ex-Middlesbrough man for most of last season.
Bennett was competent in his first top-flight campaign, but at times gave away many fouls and picked up several bookings, so Lambert might favour Luna for his greater top level experience. His signing has continued Villa’s busy summer, and the activity may not be over yet.
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