Aston Villa: Rise of the Villans, Starring Darren Bent, Jean Makoun, Kyle Walker
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It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for Aston Villa, and they're feeling good.
With the £24million capture of prolific Premier League goalscorer Darren Bent, as well as the £6million signing of the dynamic Jean Makoun and loan signing of the explosive Kyle Walker, it's clear that harmony is being restored inside the Villa camp, with owner Randy Lerner and the board clearly having full confidence in manager Gerard Houllier, giving him the financial backing he needs.
After all, who would sanction an investment of over £30million if they didn't have faith in it being put to good use?
As Houllier himself said in The Daily Telegraph, "Obviously if you buy a player of that calibre [Bent], that means the chairman is backing you. It's a major statement of intent."
Despite spending over £30million, the revolution is set to continue as the Villa boss suggested the possibility of further signings.
He said, "If the opportunity is there, then yes. There’s no problem for getting new players."
And at the current rate of performance Aston Villa have displayed this season, they'll all be new signings that can make a difference, with the Villans languishing in 17th in the table.
Starting with Villa's marquee acquisition, Darren Bent, the club have a player who will do a whole lot more than just provide a few goals.
His energy inside the penalty area and willingness to pull out wide slightly and stretch a centre-back pairing will help create space and chances for his strike partner, and will allow the wingers to cut inside and attack the defence.
Also, the 26 year old has plenty of Premier League experience and know-how in cutting open defences, as proven by the fact he's hit double figures with his goals in the league in four out of the last five seasons, scoring 24 for Sunderland in 2009/10.
Having worked in the past with top, proven goalscorers like Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane, Kenwyne Jones and Asamoah Gyan, Bent would've also learnt a thing or two off them to boost his own game or help his younger teammates, like Nathan Delfouneso.
His ability and experience of making things happen in the final third will come in very useful to Houllier and the technical staff, who can use Darren Bent's experience to help structure the more creative, effective attacking tactics that Villa have so far been lacking this season.
Also, with the whopping price tag and proven credentials Bent has, not only will he garner some immediate respect off his new teammates, but his signing will also give the Villa players a morale boost, knowing that there'll now be a player who is likely to convert crosses into goals. Aston Villa Football Club aren't fooling around, they mean business.
The New James Milner
Ever since the multi-million pound departure of James Milner, Villa have been crying out for a new playmaker, with their lack of midfield energy or attacking creativity painfully obvious in the Second City Derby on Sunday.
But now a 27-year-old Cameroon international from Lyon might be that midfield saviour for the Villa Park outfit.
Jean Makoun, a £6million signing from Champions League contenders Lyon, may be considered a holding midfielder, but the attributes he brings to Aston Villa will more than make him suitable for the Milner role. After all, you don't need to be an attacking midfielder to be a playmaker (Paul Scholes will tell you that).
Described by Houllier as a "box-to-box" player, Makoun has the energy and work rate which can up the tempo of Villa's attacking play and make the opposition midfield work harder.
He also has a very good forward pass on him, which will most definitely come in useful for the likes of Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Marc Albrighton, who prefer the ball at their feet inside the final third so they can run at full-backs or cut inside and attack the centre-backs.
Makoun may not be the most accurate passer, but he has the vision required to start an attack, and that's almost half the battle in creating a goal-scoring chance anyway.
Are we about to witness the Rise of the Villans?
And lastly, his know-how on the pitch, as well as his attitude to the game and training could well help his teammates, especially the younger ones, who'll learn from him and bounce ideas off him.
The likes of Fabian Delph, Barry Bannan and Jonathan Hogg could find Makoun's signing useful for their own game.
Houllier's first signing in the winter transfer window, Kyle Walker, has already proved his worth to the Villa team.
The on-loan Tottenham Hotspur full-back excelled in the Second City Derby, with his pace very useful both when chasing back opposition wingers or bombing forward in tandem with Marc Albrighton.
His attack-minded nature means Villa also have another player who will up the tempo when they push forward, with his willingness to get forward and put crosses into the penalty area, giving the team more options in that final third of the pitch.
And the best thing about Walker is that despite his willingness to get forward, he usually doesn't get over-excited and knows when to stay back or track back and do his defensive duties.
He may not be the best player defensively, but with a centre-back partnership as rock solid as Richard Dunne and James Collins, it doesn't matter a great deal when he slips up, with the two centre-backs capable to deal with most things that come their way.
And so, having strengthened at least once in all three areas of the pitch—defence, midfield and attack—things are looking bright for Aston Villa as they look to restore some credibility into a farcical season.
For the masters of the art that is steganography, here is the decoded message hidden in the press conference unveiling Darren Bent as an Aston Villa man.
Watch out Premier League, as you are about to witness the Rise of the Villans.
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