Predicting a Dream January Transfer Window Scenario for Aston Villa
Aston Villa currently lie 13th in the Premier League table, and while it is a significant improvement on last season, they will not want to be dragged into another relegation battle after this hectic festive period.
Villa boss Paul Lambert will be hoping that his side can get through December relatively unscathed and will then look to add to his squad in the January transfer window.
With just over seven days to go until that window opens, the Scot will surely be compiling a list of potential acquisitions who can improve the current crop of players ahead of the run-in to the business end of the season.
The following would be a dream scenario of how the January transfer window could play out for Aston Villa.
Villa have, at times this season, lacked a creative influence in the heart of the midfield. Paul Lambert's tendency to operate with the trio of Ashley Westwood, Karim El Ahmadi and Fabian Delph has paid dividends and Villa's vast improvement from last term—especially defensively—has coincided with the development of the aforementioned three.
Delph, in particular, has been a revelation this season and is the epitome of a box-to-box midfielder, though it is defensively where he shines.
The Claret and Blues have scored just 17 goals from their 17 matches and their main problem—aside from the misfiring Christian Benteke—has been the lack of a figure able to link the midfield with the attack.
That is why Ivelin Popov would be a great signing.
The Bulgarian midfielder, who currently plies his trade in Russia with Kuban Krasnodar, plays in exactly the role that Villa are desperate to fill.
The 26-year-old operates as a forward-thinking attacking midfielder, though he has the ability to play in-behind the striker if required to do so.
Extremely competent with the ball at his feet and capable of unlocking opposition defences with pin-point passes, Popov would certainly be a hit at Villa Park.
Another area where Lambert's men have struggled this season is on the wings—especially when operating with a 4-3-3 formation. As well as Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann can play when out wide, their natural, and preferred, position is as an out-and-out striker, and it shows.
The two have accepted the challenge given to them by Lambert to give opposition full-backs a torrid time and attempt to provide Benteke with the service he requires to put the ball in the back of the net—even if it does seem like he has forgotten how to do just that.
But Villa could do with signing a player whose sole purpose is to do exactly what Agbonlahor and Weimann have been asked. Ibrahima Traore is that man.
The Stuttgart winger admitted that he had the chance to join a Premier League team last year, but decided that he was to remain in Germany—for the time being—to further his career, reported the BBC.
With his contract up in the summer, the 25-year-old could now be looking to decide where his future lies with no apparent contract talks forthcoming at Stuttgart.
The Guinea international has played in all but one of the Bundesliga outfit's 16 fixtures this term and has created 19 clear goalscoring opportunities for his teammates, as well as chipping in with a couple of goals.
Traore's desire to take on the opposition every time he collects the ball, whilst having the presence of mind to release it when a pass is the better option, is something Villa have been crying out for.
If Traore is to leave Stuttgart in January, then there are sure to be a number of clubs vying for his signature, but if Villa could secure his services then it would be an astute bit of business.
Yes, I know Benteke already plays for Aston Villa and that he signed a new contract in the summer. But, as per the last transfer window, if Lambert can keep hold of the Belgian then that would certainly be one of the better bits of business in January.
In terms of keeping hold of his man, fortunately for the Villa boss Benteke's form over recent months has been way short of what is expected of the 23-year-old, and hopefully for the Villa faithful, way short of what potential suitors will be looking for when trying to add to their squads.
But let's not kid ourselves, Benteke, as he showed last season, has the ability to be one of the Premier League's best strikers. After the first four games this season he sat atop the scoring charts with four goals.
Unfortunately for the Claret and Blues, he then suffered an injury and has not looked the same since his return.
The Belgium international has been ruled out until January with another injury and will miss a vital period of the season for his side, but if Villa can stave off the advances of potential suitors in January, then they will hope last season's leading goalscorer will find the goal trail once more.