The transfer window may have opened today, but its managerial moves that are making all of the headlines at present, with bigger clubs poaching improving managers from the smaller Premier League sides.
Norwich City manager Paul Lambert looks set for a move to Aston Villa after he offered his resignation to the Canaries board on Thursday. Delia Smith and co. may have rejected Lambert’s offer, but he is now in discussions over a move to the midlands to replace the unpopular Alex McLeish at Villa Park.
From day one the McLeish reign was doomed to failure after his move from rivals Birmingham City and the fans’ clear disliking of the man, paired with underperforming players and unconvincing new signings.
However, I feel that Aston Villa have the squad and infrastructure to become a consistent top half Premier League side and possibly challenge the likes of Everton, Newcastle, Fulham and Stoke for a top eight position on a regular basis, perhaps returning to the Martin O’Neill days of European football in the next few years.
No other club in the country has a group of players aged 18-23 who are seemingly ready for first team football; with the likes of Marc Albrighton, Ciaran Clark and Barry Bannan already first team regulars, soon to be followed by the promising Gary Gardner, Chris Herd, Andreas Weimann, Samir Carruthers and others.
Villa have also taken part in the hugely successful NexGen Series that is a sort of Champions League style competition for under-18 sides, where they beat runners up Ajax on their way to winning their group and impressing the top clubs in Europe. The before mentioned youngsters along with the likes of rejects such as Emile Heskey had a huge role to play in winning their reserve league too, a league that included both Arsenal and Chelsea.
Injuries to the likes of Darren Bent and horrific news for Stililyan Petrov added to the woes of the club last season, narrowly avoiding relegation after a terrible slump in form in the final few months of the campaign. Big money signings such as Charles N’Zogbia offered very little to squad as a replacement of Stewart Downing and money could be available for Lambert after the big money sales of Downing, Ashley Young and James Milner in recent times.
The core defence is in place with the hugely experienced Richard Dunne, James Collins and Shay Given the main backbone with progressive full backs Alan Hutton and Stephen Warnock in place. One time Leeds United prodigy Fabien Delph seems to be over his worst injury problems and the likes of Stephen Ireland and Gabriel Agbonlahor are decent enough Premier League players that can cause opposition problems. Add the set of impressive youngsters to the current squad and ask Mr Lerner to fork out on two or three marquee signings; with the likes of Grant Holt possibly following his current manager from East Anglia; and I see no reason why Villa wont only improve on last season but also challenge the top eight and have a decent cup run.
Without disrespecting Norwich, you have to feel that Lambert has taken them as far he can, similarly to Brendan Rodgers at Swansea, and so the prospect of joining a big club, with a good squad that have very little expectations after a woeful season would excite me and I’m sure the man who was managing Colchester United just three years ago will be a huge success at Villa Park. Don’t be surprised to see Aston Villa massively improving next season and battling in the top half of the Premier League.
What do you think? Let me know on Twitter: @Brad_Pinard