I wrote last week that the Villans are in dire need of some creativity and, despite flaws in other areas, this should be the priority. But what kind of player do they need?
The full-backs haven’t been very impressive, there are some injuries in the centre of defence and the team struggles when Ron Vlaar doesn’t play but Villa have actually been relatively solid in general. The midfielders have good energy but are lacking technical quality and could probably do with a true destroyer, someone with some aggression and physical presence. Up front, the players have pace and power and there’s a good goal-scorer, although he isn’t really performing, but creativity is lacking.
My point is that, for all their faults, there is a team capable of battling, making things tough for the opposition and keeping clean sheets. There are players who will cause problems when given space to run into and in Agbonlahor and in particular Benteke, the side has players capable of taking chances, if presented with them. What they really lack is the ability to create chances when the opposition sit deep.
Some have suggested a deep-lying playmaker is necessary to keep the ball and have more control over games. While it would be beneficial to at least have the option to control the game more, at present the Villans are best on the counter-attack so they don’t particularly want control. The main problem is when the opposing team allows Villa to have possession, in which case Villa don’t particularly need players who keep the ball better.
A pacey winger would also be a useful acquisition but the fact is, while someone with a better end product would be valuable, there is enough pace in the team.
What Lambert needs is someone who can receive the ball higher up the pitch, between the lines, where there is less space, and run at players or thread a killer pass. This is a different sort of creativity and requires a different skillset. Xabi Alonso has an incredible range of passing and can either keep possession for his team or play ambitious long balls which can hurt the defence. However, he’s not so effective when put under pressure. He doesn’t have that ability to change direction quickly or skip away from challenges, whereas Mesut Özil is an expert at this.
Players like Gabby Agbonlahor or Theo Walcott can be thwarted by not allowing them space to run into but Özil has the ability to receive the ball in a tight space, turn and beat his man with a sharp movement, creating space for himself.c
Ideally, Villa would like someone who can offer this but who also has the mobility and intelligence to suit the counter-attacking style. Ozil is brilliant at finding space for a direct pass as soon as possession has been regained and his decision-making regarding when to release the ball on the counter is superb. Villa don’t want someone who will receive the ball and slow the game down.
I am sure Paul Lambert would also like someone who can contribute when his team doesn’t have the ball since he can’t really afford to give someone a free role. Özil is a great player but he’s not the greatest when his team does not have possession whereas Oscar has fantastic energy and awareness. As soon as the ball is lost, he will look to win it back or at least make things difficult for his opponent. Paul Lambert has built this team around energy and hard-work and those qualities are clearly important to him.
If Lambert can get a few players in then great but if he can only get one it should definitely be an attacking midfielder or a number 10. If he can get someone who possesses a few of the qualities mentioned, the new arrival could have a big impact on the team.