Aston Villa fans were forced to endure a frustrating and at times relegation-threatened campaign in 2011-12, but the club maintained their Premier League status and are in the process of rebuilding for a more productive 2012-13. Alex McLeish has been shown the door after failing to win over the Villa Park faithful, with energetic and ambitious coach Paul Lambert his replacement. Despite an opening-day defeat to West Ham, there is seemingly more of an air of confidence around the club this term.
Lambert will be eager to bring in his own players before the end of the transfer window, but the Scottish manager will rely on the experienced players at the club in his attempts to lead the side back to the top half. The goal threat of Darren Bent, safe Adidas football gloves of Shay Given and doggedness of Richard Dunne will be important continuations in a team of transition, and if Villa can keep their main players fit the supporters will be confident in an upturn in results and performances.
The club has not splashed the cash this summer on any big-money signings, with prudence and European scouting key features of the recruitment drive. The side’s three main new faces have all been purchased from the Dutch Eredivisie, and although not household names have the potential to be strong additions to the contingent.
Ron Vlaar is the best known of the three, with the Netherlands international centre-back joining the Midlands team from Feyenoord. Moroccan midfielder Karim El Ahmadi has received praise from Lambert after impressing in training, with the African set to bolster the Scot’s options in the centre of the park in the continued absence of Stiliyan Petrov. Finally, winger Brett Holman has been signed on a Bosman ruling from AZ Alkmaar, and will look to help to provide opportunities for the club’s forwards, who were goal-shy last term.
The Villa squad do have other individual talents that failed to fire last season, but if Lambert can reinstall confidence could be as good as new signings. The likes of Stephen Ireland, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Fabien Delph, Marc Albrighton and Charles N’Zogbia all have something to prove this term, but need to turn their individual abilities towards a consistent team effort.
As always strong home form will be key, and Villa fans will hope the side can get to 40 points as quickly as possible to avoid any repeats of last term’s relegation threat. Lambert will need time to settle in at his new club, but his track record of success and attacking football at Norwich should have the Villa fans confident that progression and a top-half finish is achievable in 2012-13.
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