Since Paul Lambert took over at Aston Villa it is fair to say that he has had a rocky time at the midlands club. For the last two seasons they have only just managed to scathe off the threat of relegation, when at times it looked like a certainty. Surely it cannot be the same situation for them again this season?
Joe Cole – It has been difficult to understand why Joe Cole has never really settled at a club since leaving Chelsea on a free in 2010, nevertheless injuries have certainly been an issue. With his return to West Ham not really lighting any fireworks (possibly due to the long ball tactics of Sam Allardyce) it will be interesting to see whether the gamble of signing Cole will pay off. One would imagine that he will still be on a hefty wage. But what can a fit Joe Cole bring to a team like Aston Villa? Well one things for sure he certainly has experience of playing in many big games. As well as this his eye for a pass and link up play with the strikers is something he did so well at his time at Chelsea and West Ham before then. Perhaps Lambert sees Joe Cole being in the central of midfield, possibly being the playmaker of the team as I can’t imagine him being as sharp as he once was. But then again you may say the same about all of Villa’s new signings. As a neutral, it would certainly be great to see Joe Cole rediscover some of that form he once had at Stamford Bridge.
Kieran Richardson and Phillipe Senderos – Once upon a time you wouldn’t have argued that Richardson was once one of the best set piece takers in the league. Then he was moved from left wing to left back and has played a lot of the last few years in defence. If that is the position he is to play in he will need to ensure he keeps his composure in what may be another busy season for the defender. Nevertheless, what Richardson can offer is a fantastic delivery in which Benteke and defenders such as Vlaar should take advantage of. Phillipe Senderos is a very interesting and surprising signing. Perhaps Paul Lambert doesn’t feel as though there are enough experienced defenders in the Villa squad and Phillipe is the man to provide it. It appeared over the last few seasons that Senderos has lost his sharpness that a defender needs to make those pin-point accurate tackles, but you would still feel that the 29 year old still has something to offer. I am sure he will have the determination to play a big part in the Aston Villa defence as you feel he won’t have many more chances to play in the Premier League should he not succeed.
Ron Vlaar – Last season was a long season for the Villa captain, which finished just a few weeks ago in that third place World Cup match with Holland. Therefore Villa fans will be hoping that Vlaar can get his energy recouped for when the season starts again as they are going to need him. As the leader of his defence Vlaar must ensure that he is able to hold the back line and be vocal to his teammates. One would think that the World Cup would have helped boost Ron Vlaar’s confidence so maybe he might just be Villa’s most key asset in the squad. Last season Villa were well known for conceding goals in the first half and then being stoic second, maybe this time they can stay stoic from the first minute to the last. If he can help keep goals out at his end, then certainly the strikers will feel less pressure upfront.
Fabian Delph – Who can forget that wonderful goal against Chelsea at Villa Park last season? It’s moments like that which remind Villa fans just how good Fabian Delph really is, and was quite rightly voted player of the year for the 2013/14 campaign. Delph must continue pushing forward in matches and bring back the belief/ momentum that Villa had not so long ago in the push for Europe. Delph looks much stronger on the ball, fending off the opposition and helping to create assists. Delph, aswell as the rest of the midfield need to play much more positively at in the clarant and blue jersey to ensure they are not in another relegation fight.
Christian Benteke – Once Benteke is back to full fitness he can get back to being the assassin he is leading the Villa attack. Christian is one of those players who is an all-round striker as he offers height, pace and expert finishing. His future at Villa park looked to inevitably end when he handed in his transfer request last Summer, but Lambert quite rightly remained stern to keep the Belgian at the club. Once Benteke got injured it was at this point the Villa performances really went downhill and nearly resulted in relegation. Therefore it is vital Benteke remains fit for the majority of the season as his goals can define where the club will finish.
Where will Villa finish this Season?
You can’t fault the effort of Paul Lambert as manager of Aston Villa as he has managed to keep them up twice when the outcome of relegation was looking inevitable. The funds at the club are not as big as they were when O’niell was incharge, hence the reason why players are being brought in on a free. But that is not to say that I think Aston Villa are going to be certain relegation candidates this season. In fact, I believe that if the squad really comes together and plays as a team and believe they are going to win then they could finish strongly this season. If the players such as Vlaar, Richardsom, Cole, Delph, Benteke, Agbonlahor and Weimann all come together as a team then there is no reason why they can’t finish mid table. But in order to do this they have to be able to play consistently for both halves of a 90 minute match.