The transfer window is opening at the perfect time for Aston Villa. Having lost four of their last five matches, manager Paul Lambert will be eager for the opportunity to reinforce his struggling squad.
Previously, Lambert has almost exclusively focused his transfer dealings on acquiring younger players that arrive for lower transfer fees. This strategy has allowed Lambert to add to his squad by spending less and hoping to develop these unproven talents over time.
This policy has saved the club millions in transfer fees and wages but has garnered mixed results. Players such as Christian Benteke have proven their worth and increased their transfer value while moves for Joe Bennett and Aleksandar Tonev are examples of total flops.
Last season, Lambert made just a single signing in January, acquiring Yacouba Sylla on deadline day. Sylla fits the mould of Lambert's typical transfers. The young Frenchman was acquired cheaply and has room to improve his game, but he has not had a large impact on the team.
However, with the manager facing heavy criticism after a run of poor performances, Lambert is set to alter his methods. In an interview with The Birmingham Mail's Mat Kendrick, Lambert revealed his desire to bring in more experienced players in the upcoming transfer window.
I've identified players that might help, because we’re a really young side as everybody knows. If we can add some experience along the line then we’ll try.
With the transfer window's open imminent, Lambert has altered his methods and is prepared to move for older, more proven players this winter. This is the correct approach to take for several reasons.
Lambert's previous policy has been admirable and moderately successful. The manager has drastically reduced the club's wage bill and made the squad much younger. He has acquired several players with great potential and seen them make improvements during their time at the club.
Nonetheless, Villa are a deeply flawed team that must improve quickly. Younger players, even those with future potential, may not be able to make the immediate impact that Villa needs.
The club's owner, Randy Lerner, must acknowledge Lambert's efforts to control the club's spending and allow him to spend the winter window making signings to strengthen the team now, even if they are less beneficial long-term.
Furthermore, the club has experienced an injury crisis at the back and Nathan Baker, whose performances have been suspect this season, is the only available central defender. Injuries to Chris Herd, Ron Vlaar and Jores Okore have left the team with few options, an issue compounded by Ciaran Clark's recent one-match suspension.
When fully fit, Villa's defence is solidly constructed. Okore and Clark are young and developing their talents and Vlaar has been defensively resolute this year. But Lambert has not been able to consistently select from these players and a proven centre-back is needed to provide stability and ensure that Villa do not continue to slide down the table.
Another area of weakness this season has been a lack of creativity. Villa's attack has often looked toothless as they do not possess a player who can link the midfield and forwards together to create chances for his team-mates.
Lambert was willing to spend close to £10 million over the summer for Hiroshi Kiyotake to fill this role, but Villa were unable to complete a deal. This hole in the team has been increasingly apparent as Villa struggle to find the back of the net.
The majority of Villa's goals this year have come from set pieces or counter-attacks. Villa's lack of creativity has shown in situations where they are forced to break down an organized defence, something they have struggled to do without a creative player.
A difficult position to fill, Lambert will have more options in acquiring a playmaker if he is open and willing to spend on a more experienced player, as he is now. Villa's struggling team cannot afford to chance entrusting an unproven youngster with such an important role in the team.
There are certainly downsides to Lambert's change in philosophy. Proven players will cost more to purchase and command higher wages. Also, these older players are unlikely to be resold for as much as they are purchased for and often have little improvement left in them.
However, for the upcoming transfer window at least, Lambert's focus on experience over potential is the right decision. Villa may not currently stand in the relegation zone, but their discouraging form and increasingly weary squad needs help to ensure survival and improvement.