The transfer window is now firmly shut, although it does appear it was left ajar as we managed to announce a loan signing on Tuesday afternoon, when Tom Cleverley became Lambert’s sixth signing of the summer. Cleverley joins us on a season-long loan, with a view to a permanent transfer down the line.
I was one of many fans who did not expect Lambert to be so active without a takeover occurring but, credit to Lerner and Lambert, it looks like the club has done some very good deals. We now have the strongest squad we have had for years (on paper) and it is refreshing to see that we have some genuine competition for places. For too long, we have not had strong enough options on the bench but it now looks as if the manager will have plenty of choice.
Paul Lambert has certainly had his critics – and undoubtedly still will have – but even the most ardent Lambert critic can’t deny that, for the money spent, he appears to made useful additions to the squad this summer. The deals he has done, along with the dismantling of the ‘bomb squad’, have given the squad a fresh look and fresh impetus. We sit third after three games, with seven points, which almost every Villa fan would have taken that before the season started.
Senderos and Cissokho were signings that failed to excite Villa fans but they have been fantastic so far. Both have added a more physical element to the back line and it is clear that Vlaar enjoys playing next to Senderos in particular. I could hear Senderos barking orders on Sunday; he seems like a real leader and organiser. He will make a mistake at some point but if he continues in this vein the odd clanger can be tolerated. Aly Cissokho was not held in high regard by Liverpool fans but I have really enjoyed his displays so far. He is an improvement on Luna and Bennett and, in my opinion, he is also a step up from Bertrand.
We haven’t seen much of Joe Cole yet but he will play his part. On a free transfer, he is a low-risk signing and what he does on the training ground could be more important than what he does on the pitch, as I’m sure he has plenty of tips to pass on to some of our younger talents.
Kieran Richardson has had a really positive start to his Villa career too. It was great to see a midfield player getting beyond the forwards on Sunday. His versatility and energy will be vital as the season progresses. Getting an assist will do him the world of good. Signed for less than a million pounds, he was a bargain. He played a lot of games at left back for Fulham when it is clear that midfield is his position and he looks happy to be playing there again.
Before yesterday, Carlos Sanchez was our highest profile arrival. In his cameo appearances in the Premier League, he has shown glimpses of what we can expect from him. We all hope that he will become the enforcer we have been missing. When he adapts to the Premier League, he should be a big player for us and his international career suggests he will be.
In a mini soap opera, Tom Cleverley became our final signing. Cleverley is a much maligned player and what appeared to be an initial refusal to join us has done him no favours with the Villa faithful. I have been heavily critical of his inclusion in the England team in the past, mainly because I felt Fabian Delph was twice the player he was and Delphy wasn’t getting a sniff. Delph has been included in the England squad and Cleverley is now a Villan so I wish them both well. Hopefully, we are getting the Tom Cleverley who played under Martinez at Wigan and played twenty-five games in a title-winning side a few years ago. It appears that Cleverley was one of those hurt by the Moyes era hurt at United. He certainly needs to rebuild his career. Could Villa Park be the place where he does this?
Cleverley certainly joins at a time when there seems to be an air of positivity at the Club. Fans even managed to sing Lambert’s name on Sunday, which was a far cry from last season’s booing. Lambert deserves some credit because he has been doing his job under difficult circusmatnces. He has made mistakes – a lot of mistakes – but he has always tried to do right by the club, in my opinion. Things were looking bleak but he has gone some way towards improving the team’s prospects. I’m impressed with the deals done this summer and equally impressed with our squad.
Roy Keane looks to have been a great appointment. A strong character was needed at Villa Park and he and Lambert seem to complement each other well. It was a brave move to employ someone of Keane’s calibre alongside Lambert but it appears to be working so far. Between them, they have sorted the defence, something that has been our Achilles’ heel for too long.
Although there were only around twenty-eight thousand fans at Villa Park on Sunday, there are lots of reasons for Villa fans to be cheerful at the moment. I am feeling really positive and I’ve not even touched on Gabby Agbonlahor and Andi Weimann returning to scoring ways, the emergence of Jack Grealish or the fact that we have managed to hold on to Vlaar, Delph and Benteke. Admittedly, I have also steered clear of the defeat to Leyton Orient, which irks me. Nevertheless, our start to the Premier League campaign has been beyond anything I had hoped for after last season and a summer of uncertainty.
We now embark on a horrid run of fixtures, as we face five tough games against last season’s big hitters. These games will obviously all be tough but in the corresponding fixtures last season we picked up four points so there is no reason why we can’t pick up more this term. The players look happier, hungrier and more organised. We are also a lot more robust and our best player and talisman (Benteke) is yet to return from injury so there should be much to look forward to.
For the last three weeks I have enjoyed being a Villa fan again. I am aware it could all come crumbling down but if you can’t enjoy the good times then there is no point supporting a football team.
Up the Villa!
Do you share my enthusiasm? Let me know by commenting below.