This summer has seen a flurry of transfer activity at B6. Highly public transfer sagas around the futures of Villa’s top two players both resulted in departures with Christian Benteke’s release clause of £32.5 million being met by Liverpool and Fabian Delph changing his mind not once but twice to eventually join Man City for a marginal fee of £8m.
This has been followed by a mass influx of talent, primarily from France, arriving through the door with owner Randy Lerner opening his chequebook to bring in a total of nine new faces through door including frees. The departures of many fringe players as well as Delph and Benteke means that this is a very new look Villa that teams will be facing this year.
Despite all this things appear to not be slowing down as Tim Sherwood continues to look for ways to improve his side as the opening weekend of the season speeds towards us. Whilst many positions appear to now have quality and depth others could potentially be hazardous to Villa as the season progresses.
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The full-back positions have been a problem for Villa for the last few seasons. Left back appears to have been answered in the form of Nice’s Jordan Amavi who has looked bright in pre-season and arrives with alot of hype surrounding his time in France. However, right-back appears glaringly vulnerable.
The responsibility will most likely fall between Alan Hutton, Leandro Bacuna and new arrival Jose Angel Crespo from Cordoba.
Whilst there is a variance of styles there does not appear to be one answer, Bacuna is more of a winger and struggles defensively, Hutton will do a job but nothing more and appears exposed against more talented opposition (highlighted at Wembley against Alexis Sanchez) and Crespo has been bought from a relegated La Liga team for £500,000, hardly something to get you up off your feet.
Some fans will probably say that this position is not of primary concern and there doesn't appear many links to many right backs around, however, if Villa are to push up the table then this will definitely need attention, if not this summer then next summer or possibly January.
The main worry for fans in this position is that of injuries. Micah Richards has not completed a top flight season of more than 20 games in England or elsewhere since 2011-2012 when he required knee surgery which raises big questions over his fitness and ability to stay healthy for the upcoming season.
Villa’s three main other options at centre back have all had issues with injury also, Ciaran Clark missed the end of last season with a knee injury, Jores Okore is currently injured and Nathan Baker only completed 12 games last season due to injuries. Add to this doubts from some about Micah Richards ability to play centre back and Villa appear to have a real problem position on their hands.
There have been many links with Richards former Man City team mate and Birmingham born Joleon Lescott with reports of an offer of around £1m proving unsuccessful. He would no doubt offer a lot of experience to Villa’s back line but convincing Black Country rivals West Brom to part with him could potentially be tough.
There has also been a link to highly rated Colombian centre back Eder Alvarez Balanta, according to the the Birmingham Mail. A complete unknown but a player linked with Barcelona means he clearly has some pedigree however the legitimacy of the rumours seems questionable. This is a position that definitely will need support, even if it is just depth if Villa are going to move forward.
The system that Sherwood has deployed in pre-season is a 4-4-2 as opposed to the 4-3-3 system that he implemented at the end of last season. If he continues to use a 4-4-2 going into the next campaign then there could be a real lack of depth on the wing.
This appears to be further evidenced by the links all summer to Andros Townsend and the now emerging links to fellow Spurs winger Aaron Lennon. Lennon seems a lot more likely with a figure of £5m being quoted by the Daily Mail.
Regardless of what system Sherwood goes with this season Aaron Lennon would be a good option for Villa, especially for as little as £5m and Villa’s bargaining position will be helped by Lennon moving into his final 12 months of contract. Whilst Carles Gil and Jack Grealish can be used on the wing Sherwood has been vocal in the past of using both players in a more central role.
This combined with Scott Sinclair being more predominantly a left winger means that the only real option at right wing in Villa’s squad is Leandro Bacuna who has hardly impressed in pre-season. Lennon is the perfect option to fill this void and after turning 28 he theoretically is coming into his physical prime. Watch this space.
Also there has been links to Barcelona’s highly rated youngster Adama Traore with varying levels of reliability in the reports. No doubt a fantastic talent however, Villa it appears are unwilling to reach Barcelona’s valuation of the player which means the door is wide open for him to sign for Stoke. A new winger appears high on Tim Sherwood’s agenda and would give him more attacking options going forward as well as the flexibility to change system if he needs to.
There is no doubting Villa’s squad has been strengthened this summer however, there is still definite further improvement to be made across the squad.
Which position do you think Villa need to strengthen the most? Let us know in the comments below.