Aston Villa a Leader in Homegrown Premiership Talent, but is More Aggressive Ambition Needed?

aston villa home grown players


Aston Villa are leaders in the homegrown talent stakes, but should they supplement these players more aggressively like Southampton have?


Most Aston Villa supporters will be well aware by now that our football academy ranks as one of the best in Europe.  As well as our youth team being European Champions last season by winning the Next Gen Series, the stats back it up. As we reported at the end of last year, Villa ranked as the third best English team for supplying top players to the top five European leagues.

The above table compiled by the Football Observatory with data by Opta Pro, shows Villa to be third again (joint with Manchester United) in terms of fielding players in their team that they have actually brought up through the ranks – footballers who have played at least three years between the ages of 15 and 21 and play in their first team.

Noticeably, two teams in the two spots above Villa, Arsenal and Southampton also occupy spots in the current top three in the Premier League ( 12th November 2013), while the team joint third with them, Manchester United are the reigning champions.

Obviously, the utilisation of homegrown players is a good proven foundation for success, but the difference between these clubs and Villa, seems to be the quality of players then added to this foundation.

Paul Lambert has tended to buy European imports that are actually at the same level and age group as the homegrown players that he inherited through Villa’s academy. Of course, Arsenal and Manchester United have Champions League money to spend on players to maintain their standing, but recently promoted Southampton perhaps have been more canny in fast-tracking success than Villa.

While Lambert seeks value for money bargains,  the Saints have added players of the same age group but of a more proven quality at the £8-12 million mark. Defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama (22) was £12.7 million from Celtic, while centre-back Dejan Lovren (24) was £8.8 million from Lyon.

Both players have contributed to Southampton possessing the best defence in the Premier League. With just five goals shipped in 11 games, that’s at least half the total of any other club bar Everton (6). It suggests that shelling out that bit extra pays dividends.

The season before, when they were newly promoted, Southampton brought in five players in Lambert’s favourite demographic – aged between 21 to 24 and  costing £2-4 million, in a move that mirrored Lambert’s own re-building program. The Saints also acquired the services of attacking midfielder Gastón Ramírez (21) from Bologna for £13.3 million and newly promoted England international striker Jay Rodriguez (22) from Burnley for £7.6 million to suggest they had ambitions to do more than just stay up in the league, as their signings this summer also suggest.

It’s clear so far that Lambert’s £6 million punt on Benteke was a better piece of business than the Saint’s purchase of  Pablo Osvaldo (26) for 13.25 million from Roma, but overall, it shows while the Saints through Nigel Adkins and now Mauricio Pochettino have a similar transfer ethos to Lambert’s ‘young and hungry’ , they seem to have more fast-tracked ambition.

Is Lambert being too conservative? After all, with no disrespect to Southampton, surely Aston Villa would be able to attract almost any player before the south coast team could?

Of course, it’s early days in the season. Every season notably has a fast starter that drops down the league like a stone. Likewise, you’d expect Villa to get stronger as the season goes on, having also navigated a tough set of opening fixtures.

I guess the moral of this story is, with the great youthful home-grown infrastructure at Villa Park and with Benteke still in our ranks,  lets supplement these players with ambitious intent. As Southampton have shown, it’s a balance and philosophy that can certainly make inroads into the status quo of top teams. UTV

Follow MOMS on Twitter at @oldmansaid


  1. Players like Callum Robinson, Jordan Graham and Jack Grealish need more first team exposure, these 3 are genuine talents. Janoi Donacien could do with a loan move. Following these young players avidly, there is a some real talents there, they just need some exposure. I like what Southampton have done with their best youths, they’ve gave them all chances and it’s paying off with many of them. Out of all the young Southampton lads, Ward Prowse looks outstanding.

    Back to Villa, one thing that really annoyed me Saturday, was when we were cruising at 2-0 with less than 10 minutes left, instead of bringing on one of our talented youth players for valuable first team experience, he bought on Bowery. Always thought Lambert was a brave manager, but that was not a brave decision.

  2. Can i just say statistically southampton have had the easiest start in the league and we have had the hardest. They haven’t played anyone other than liverpool who you would consider difficult games. Lets see where they are come the new year.
    Also we’ve hardly had the best of luck with injuries, our squad hasn’t even been given the chance to get into form, we’re still nursing injuries, we will start to climb up the table now with the run of games we have and our performances will start to improve as players get a run of games without injury. Just look at how well we played and how good our passing was last half of the season compared to this one, even in our best displays we haven’t been fully up to scratch, just better defensively.

  3. Gary Gardner is interesting. Jack Wilshere openly talks about him being the best of that age group BUT the lad has had two cruciate ligament injuries by the age of 19. Sadly there has to be a big question mark whether he will be able to fulfill the incredible potential he had. Such a tragedy if he doesn’t. For himself , Villa and England. Before his injuries he was sensational. A young Steven Gerrard if ever I had seen one. Let’s hope he is able to recover, but he will need a lot of patience and a long injury free run

  4. Another problem with our youngsters is that they have never had top class players to train/play with day in, day out. Most youngsters that get into our first team are pretty much as good as our experienced players.

  5. Southampton have been brilliant of late producing players and they are currently well ahead of Villa. Yes, Villa have the potential to be much bigger, but we are not at the moment. Villa tend to produce a lot of good players but not great players. As well as those still at VP there is Myhill, Ridgewell. Barry , Davis, Cahill, Whittingham, Gardner, Bannan still playing regular Prem League football. Our current crop of 18/21 year olds do appear to be our best group for some time (hence winning U19 NextGen/Champions League). Hopefully from that group we may find 3/4 players to put in the great rather than good bracket.

    • Yep, I’m hoping the next wave are a step up in quality than the one’s you’ve just mentioned. If Gardner doesn’t get games this season, then he’s not as good as some of his experiences in the Next Gen led us to believe (and the hype Madrid & Inter were after him). Still, if you have a REAL quality youth player, they’re normally knocking on the door at 18/19. Too many of ours get past 22 without really stepping up. Hence, Lambert has to buy more players of the same age to do the same job.

  6. I hate to say it, but i kind of agree with the Spurs fan above – yes, we produce talent, but only humdrum players that are upper Championship/lower Prem quality at best. When was the last time we brought through a genuinely top class player?

    You pretty much get what you pay for in this day and age. Soton bought two young, promising players with Champs League experience in Wanyama and Lovren. They both proved to be astute signings. If you break the 10m barrier, you get that bit of extra quality that we are missing.

  7. Think you’ll find they will come to Saints rather than villa. This club is going places trust me

    • Awesome, I’m glad you backed up your statement with hard-evidence. ‘Trust me’. OBVIOUSLY you know what you’re talking about!

    • At the moment, that is probably true. One of the problems Villa have is their young players haven’t been drip fed into the first team alongside experienced/talent players. They’ve been thrown in together and given baptisms of fire in pressured relegation battles. Sometimes this can potentially curb or crush a player, before they’re up and running.

  8. Think if you add Walcott and Oxlaide Chamberlain onto Saints as Home Grown – Arsenal go down to 1.9 Saints go up to 5.5. It is going to become even more when Shar – Clyne and Chambers get full England status, we also have Omar Rowe and several others waiting!

    • You’ve been very impressive in recent years. I’m looking forward to see how the Saints do the rest of the season. Some tough fixtures coming up.

  9. well i think we all no the reason behind that .. the ‘off loading’ of that mans crazy spree (i refuse to mention him) … Im glad we have finally (almost) started to balance the books … We had foreign because of the financial market … simple …. I’m a bit surprised tho of how we have let our youth go, without givin em a proper chance .. hmm … i mean would u say really, and honestly, that bannan and albrighton really are that inferior to the latest buys? (with i do commend) .. Im till prayin for our ‘gazza’ …. UTV!!!

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