Determining Aston Villa's Biggest Transfer Needs and Potential Targets
Supporters of Aston Villa face a nauseating wait for the dawn of the 2014-15 Premier League season. While many fans welcome the imminent change in ownership, there is tremendous uncertainty over the club's future.
It is unclear if Paul Lambert will remain manager, and disgraced assistant coaches Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa have been the first casualties, beginning a summer that will be filled with transitions in many areas.
Villa's thin squad struggled last season, suffering injuries to many key figures and regularly playing many poor performers. Reinforcements are desperately needed in several areas, but new signings will be difficult to make until a new owner—and potentially a new manager—formally takes over.
The willingness of Villa's new owners to spend will undoubtedly impact the quality of the players who do finally sign, but in the meantime, Villa can identify their greatest areas of weakness and begin to target specific players to address them.
These are Villa's biggest transfer needs for the summer transfer window.
One of Villa's primary needs this transfer window will remain the same for the third year running: a new left-back. Previous arrivals Joe Bennett and Antonio Luna have not inspired confidence and are unlikely to be trusted as first-choice options next season.
Ryan Bertrand was signed on loan during the winter transfer window to solve this problem, and the Chelsea man impressed the fans with his defensive discipline and confidence on the ball. Re-signing the Englishman permanently should be a priority for Villa's manager.
Unfortunately for Villa, signing Bertrand permanently may be challenging and expensive. The release of Ashley Cole has left Chelsea with fewer options at left-back, indicating Jose Mourinho may plan to keep Bertrand at Stamford Bridge.
Paul Lambert frequently struggled this season to find a reliable partner alongside Ron Vlaar. Nathan Baker had a horrid season and Ciaran Clark does not seem trusted either. Neither player has consistently proved their worth, and Villa cannot afford to wait for improvement from either man.
There is some room for optimism, however. Jores Okore, Villa's top-billed signing from last summer, was sidelined for the season due to injury but is expected to be ready for the start of the 2014-15 campaign.
Although Okore is highly touted and should play heavy minutes, Villa could use another experienced centre-back to reinforce their back line. Okore is young and may need time to fully regain match fitness.
Reports have linked Villa with a free transfer for Joleon Lescott, but the former English international will demand high wages that Villa will rightfully be hesitant to pay.
While not as pressing of a need as some of Villa's other positions, Villa could use another midfielder to improve their depth and add a new dimension to the squad. Fabian Delph and Ashley Westwood have impressed, but the remainder of Villa's midfield is less convincing.
Karim El Ahmadi is a useful player and was a regular starter, but he may be better suited as a squad player going forward. Yacouba Sylla has looked out of his depth while Gary Gardner has struggled to find consistency through a constant stream of injuries.
Fans would undoubtedly welcome a return of former Villa heroes Gareth Barry or James Milner but signing either is likely unrealistic. Leroy Fer of relegated Norwich is a talented option who could come at a reduced price. His all-around talents and physicality would be welcome in Villa's midfield.
The lack of creativity in Villa's midfield was the team's undoubted weakness for all of last season and Villa's manager, whether it's Lambert or not, must be willing to break the budget and buy a talented player to fill this hole.
Without a true playmaker in the middle of the park, Villa's offence was largely reduced to hopeful long balls and counterattacking football. A talented, dynamic player is sorely needed and must be the manager's first priority in the transfer window.
Villa's failed bid for Wes Hoolahan in January could be revived, but Villa should not be afraid to pursue more expensive targets. Tottenham's Lewis Holtby is likely available and is an attractive option if Villa's new ownership is willing to spend the necessary funds.
The departure of Marc Albrighton to newly promoted Leicester City has left a gaping hole for Villa to fill on the wing. Aleksandar Tonev has looked calamitous every time he has played for Villa, while Charles N'Zogbia seems unwanted at the club and is recovering from a long-term injury.
A number of Villa's players—chiefly Gabriel Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann and Leandro Bacuna—can be deployed out wide, but none of them are natural wingers. Academy product Jack Grealish is a natural winger and thrived on loan at Notts County, but it is difficult to rely on an untested player entirely.
Grealish should be given a chance on the wing, but Villa will still need to sign another player or two to whip in crosses and beat defenders. Nathan Redmond and Victor Moses are two players who could be available that would help Villa improve.