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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Aston Villa: Will two loan signings be enough to turn our fortunes around?

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It has been far from a disastrous season at Villa so far, but it’s also been far from good.


The standard of play has not improved 12 months on, but the defence looks sharper and when the side clicks, particularly away from home, they can play some decent football.


The main issue seems to be with our creative players. Stephen Ireland has been loaned out to Stoke, Barry Bannan has gone to Palace, Charles N’Zogbia has been either injured or out of favour, Marc Albrighton is still very much seen as a fringe player by the manager and Gary Gardner has not been given any first team football for what ever reason. That’s the majority of Villa’s recognised creative players having either been sold, injured or marginalised.


Ireland was clearly never going to fit in at Villa Park and Bannan never lived up to his potential, so the fact they’ve gone shouldn’t matter when looking at the bigger picture.


BertrandThe problems started when Villa’s creative players were replaced by workhorses, battlers and runners.  With January quickly coming to an end it appears very unlikely Villa will add anyone other than the loan signings of Grant Holt and Ryan Bertrand. That’s yet another forward and a defender.


I was quite happy when Bertrand agreed to come because the left back slot at Villa has been a concern for some time. Antonio Luna has not really performed well over the last few months following an explosive start. There’s still plenty of time for him to come good but when his only possible replacement is Joe Bennett, the alarm bells start ringing.


Bertrand looked pretty assured away to Liverpool but thanks to Villa’s lack of cup action, having been knocked out of both very early, we still haven’t seen much of him. The same could be said for Holt who made a cameo in the same game.


Lambert said it was a no brainer signing his former Norwich striker and we can’t judge his decision too early. But that now means we have Christian Benteke, Nicklas Helenius, Gabby Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann, Jordan Bowery and Holt vying for two or maybe three positions. Not to mention Libor Kozak who has been injured.


At the same time we still have no new creativity in the middle of the park. The fans keep banging on about Villa’s terrible home record because some of the performances have been truly awful. Fabian Delph has been trying his best to stamp his authority on games but he can’t do it alone, especially when he is often surrounded by two or three players with no-one in space to dish the ball off too. If he had some help in the middle it would make such a difference to the side.


However, as bad as it may sound, who wants to come to Villa? Perhaps the team’s biggest problem is trying to actually entice a player to come to a club that has not shown much progress under Lambert.


The team is stacked so well to playing away from home and the performances on the road have been impressive once again. The issue, for the last three years – or maybe even going back to the O’Neill days – has been the lack of ability to break teams down at home.


Looking at all the players Lambert has brought in since he’s been at the helm he’s tightened up at the back, slightly, but nowhere else seems to be any better.


Leandro Bacuna has played well since arriving and we’ve almost forgotten about the potential Jores Okore showed during his brief spell at the start of season before suffering a season long injury. The rest, however, either haven’t played or haven’t looked up to it.


It will be interesting to see how Villa line up at home for the derby against West Brom on Wednesday night.


You would expect Bertrand to be given the nod again and perhaps he’ll try to bully West Brom’s defence playing Holt and Benteke upfront, which on paper could be a real handful.


But the signings are a sign of the times at Villa where only the most optimistic fan truly believed a big star would come to the club in January.


We can all live in hope but would anyone really be surprised if Lambert – either on owner Randy Lerner’s behest or not – stopped at two loan signings?


Lambert has been given the unenviable task of getting rid of large quantities of deadwood following a succession of managers who have bought big players in, with big wages but have failed to see any significant returns from it.


There are not many players left, which were brought in by former managers, so Lambert is starting to create a side in his vision.


We have to remember it’s all been done on a shoestring budget but the fans deserve to see a bit of flair and creativity at the same time, especially at home.


It will be interesting to see if the new players can spark some sort of creativity at home against West Brom because the opposition will certainly come to play football.


Article by James Fisher


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Colin Illingworth



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