Aston Villa head into a Premier League season with expectations at a record low. Following an announcement that the club was for sale at the end of last season, there has been little to no movement on that front with Paul Lambert once again forced to look high and low for bargain transfers in a very difficult market.
The additions of Joe Cole, Kieran Richardson and Philippe Senderos, all on free transfers, has done little to enthuse supporters ahead of the new campaign with Cole thought to be past his best and Richardson and Senderos both enduring difficult spells with other clubs in the Premier League.
There have been two positives in the shape of Aly Cissokho and Carlos Sanchez who both arrive at Villa Park for a combined fee of around £7million.
Cissokho, once a target for AC Milan until the Italian giants rather sensationally cited a problem with Cissokho’s teeth in order to cancel the deal, impressed in parts during his loan spell at Anfield last season.
Cissokho hasn’t perhaps fulfilled the potential he showed during his younger years with both Olympique Lyonnais and latterly Valencia. However the defensive ability is clear to see as is the ability to get forward and support attacks. At £2million, Paul Lambert has found himself a bargain with experience, which is vitally important when you consider how Lambert’s faith in young players has thus far been unsuccessful at Villa Park despite avoiding relegation two years running.
Carlos Sanchez was Colombia’s holding midfield rock at the World Cup. The former Elche man was positioned to provide protection to the ageing legs of 38-year-old Mario Yepes at centre-half and he performed admirably.
One of the criticisms of Villa in the past two seasons had been their defence with the young players often going to pieces in difficult situations. The addition of Senderos adds experience to the defensive line. However the Swiss international struggled at Arsenal following the departure of Gilberto Silva, with the club lacking a holding midfielder.
Sanchez will perform a similar role and really help Villa’s defenders and essentially ease the pressure placed upon them.
Going forward, I still have reservations for the Midlands club with Nicklas Helenius having returned to Denmark on loan with Aalborg as well as there being question marks over the long-term fitness of star player Christian Benteke who is scheduled to be out injured until at least September. You do wonder if there will be enough goals in this Villa side to once again avoid slipping into the relegation trapdoor.
The behind the scenes issues have seen Paul Lambert’s hands tied once more and whilst Villa have essentially tread water this summer, the teams around them have improved well.
The addition of Sanchez gives the club hope. However I feel it may be too much of an ask for Villa to avoid relegation this season and Randy Lerner’s inability to force through a sale of the club this summer could in fact cost him more money altogether in the coming months.