Aston Villa: The way forward part 2: Rebuilding the midfield
You only have to look at the current England starting 11 to appreciate the quality that has left the Aston Villa midfield over the past few seasons. Ashley Young, James Milner and Gareth Barry are all regulars for the Three Lions, as well as Stewart Downing who is always in the squad. These are players that have never been replaced for the Villa; doing so will be one of the greatest challenges for Paul Lambert this summer.
Also losing the services of club captain Stiliyan Petrov from acute leukemia was unfortunate, as well as an over-reliance on youth, it is clear there will need to be signings made. Ultimately the quality of those signings will depend on the funds available.
Lambert has signed Karim El Ahmadi for £2,000,000 and Brett Holman had already joined the club, both appear to be low-risk signings based on the transfer fees; however they are unproven at Premier League level. Coming into the new season with the squad's most experienced midfielders being the enigmatic trio of Ireland, Albrighton and N’Zogbia, if no more signings are made will Lambert regret not signing more experienced players?
Here are the signings so far.
Being an Australian, I have seen a lot of Brett Holman as a footballer. Judging from his displays for the Socceroos (Australia’s national team), the current Australian player of the year will add a level of industriousness to the Villa midfield. I would characterise him as follows:
Workrate/defending: 10/10. An extremely hard working playmaker; Holman runs all day, gets himself into good attacking positions and also gets stuck in when required. He has stated moving to Villa is his dream move, so expect him to give 110 per cent to make it work.
On the ball: 5/10. He is an accomplished dribbler but his end product can let him down at times. Short and long passing are also an issue; he can be guilty of turning the ball over too often. A hidden talent is his finishing, which is excellent, especially for a midfielder.
Pace: 6/10. He is not the quickest over the first 20, but his endeavour and work rate means that he covers the pitch quite well.
Position: CAM/LW. Holman’s preferred position is just behind the striker, but can also play out wide, usually on the left cutting inside. For the national team he is far less effective in this position, but his latest form has seen him displace Tim Cahill in the attacking midfield role.
Karim El Ahmadi
More of an unknown quantity, most Villa fans will never have heard of El Ahmadi, let alone seen him play. The defensive midfielder appears regularly for the Moroccan national team and performed well for Feyenoord last season, helping them to second place and a Champions League spot.
With El Ahmadi, Herd and Clark competing for the defensive midfield spot, as well as Ireland and youngsters Delph, Gardner and Bannan all rolling through the midfield, Lambert has a lot of depth in those positions and this could mean the sale of forgotten man Jean Makoun.
Makoun signed from Lyon for £8 million in 2011, a player with Champions League experience, he could add a lot of much needed class to the Villa midfield, even if he failed to show it in his first spell at the club. With cash-strapped Olympiacos the only reported club interested in signing him it is unlikely that Villa will get a good fee for him, it would be a waste to let him go.
Article by Christian Dougherty