Potential Aston Villa January Transfer Targets to Upgrade Villa’s Midfield

Potential Aston Villa January Transfer Targets to Upgrade Villa’s Midfield


Aston Villa have now played 10 league games in the 2013 / 2014 season.  Paul Lambert’s men have accumulated 11 points and sit in 14th place, level on points with Swansea.  It is a small improvement on the start Villa made to last season in terms of points, and the fixtures themselves have been much more difficult.

Stats aside, the winter transfer window is less than two months away (not that I’m counting!) and as Lambert’s squad is a work in progress, further additions are required to improve weak areas of the team.  At the moment Villa have a group of central midfielders who lack specialist skills.  There is a similarity in some ways between Paul Lambert and Martin O’Neill, as the current manager seems to prefer central midfielders who do a little bit of everything.  Westwood, Delph and co are the ‘inbetweeners’ as they can defend a bit and attack a bit.  What I’d like to see now are more specialist quality players around the young, hard-working players in Lambert’s squad.

Ashley Westwood and Karim El Ahmadi are of course deep-lying playmakers.  They prefer to help break up play and start attacks.  Defensively, El Ahmadi has been the better of the two this season with 39 tackles in 9 appearances.  Ashley Westwood, by comparison, has only made 7 tackles in 8 appearances and some may argue that Westwood should play with a defensive midfielder behind him, rather than be the player who screens the back four.

Gary Gardner and Fabian Delph are box-to-box midfielders who like to cover the pitch, make tackles, and dictate play.  We haven’t seen much of Delph’s attacking flair so far this season, and Gardner is yet to recover from a back injury.  Delph has dribbled the ball 26 times for Villa, but disappointingly he has only attempted 5 shots on goal.  Having an attacking midfielder to pass the ball to in the attacking third would help Delph provide a link between defence and attack.

Yacouba Sylla is a defensive midfielder who Lambert has used in various midfield positions.  Sylla has only fleetingly played this season in contrast to the end of last season and it appears that Sylla is not entirely trusted by Lambert to protect the back four.  Lambert often prefers to play Westwood there, but I’m not sure why since when Lambert switched Westwood to play in front of Sylla last season, Westwood made four assists in consecutive games against Sunderland and Norwich.

Furthermore, creativity out wide is also an area of concern for Villa.  The lack of creativity in wide positions has been a real issue for Villa since Young, Milner and Downing left the club.  These quality players have not been replaced properly by McLeish or indeed Lambert.  This season, Gabby has been the most effective player out wide with two assists.  Andi Weimann, meanwhile, has struggled.  A welcome addition to the wide areas came this weekend however as Matthew Lowton returned to the team.  The youngster provided two key passes in the attacking third of the pitch against West Ham, including a cross for Benteke which the Belgium striker powered against the cross bar.  Lowton is a vital player in attack as only Benteke and Gabby currently provide more key passes per game than Lowton.

What Villa lack in wide areas (other than Matthew Lowton) is an ability to creates chances when the game slows down.  Gabby and Weimann suffer badly when they do not have space to attack and they find it difficult to break down defences.  An intelligent wide player would therefore be an important addition for Aston Villa in the attacking third.


Paul Lambert said this week that his ultimate aim was to push Villa towards the top six.  In pursuit of that aim, the three positions I would most like to see arrive in January are; an attacking midfielder, a dominant defensive midfielder and a creative winger (continued on page 2).

Click here – page two: Defensive Midfield & Creative Winger



  1. I do so hope you have opened your eyes Ms O – a fine line as ever – but thank you thank you thank you for the photoshop work. That image was immediately saved, retouched, and output onto a nice matt paper. Villa’s midfield now sit atop my desk – near my fixture list – and every time I see them – I smile.

    Which is better than gurning, raging, or snarling. Too much of which I have indulged in this season.

    So thanks.


  2. Some of the stuff on here is pure fantasy. Firstly Mbodj. He is 24. Getting basic facts wrong like that makes me feel like I’m reading the Daily Star. Secondly, he is not good enough. Nowhere near. As someone else said – he has a handful of caps for Senegal (hardly a world force) at the age of 24. Thirdly, Benteke use his Genk links? What with a player CB NEVER played with?

    I don’t mean to sound disrespectful, but every month its a new list of targets, approached with a scatter gun approach. Folk question Villa’s scouting, but gladly I think it’s much better than this – random links to players we are never going to go after who may have had one or two good games.

    • If Gary Gardner comes back and starts to play as the player he’s mooted to be (i.e. the second coming of Christ), then I’m inclined to agree with you. UTV

  3. Yes, Mbodj and the others are ‘defenders’that he can play defense and defensive midfield. Playing defensive midfield in the Premier League you need to be strong. Xabi Alonso for example had Mascherano as his DM at Liverpool, Mascherano plays Centre Back for Barca now and Alonso defensive midfield for Madrid. El Ahmadi was mainly a DM in Holland, but can’t manage the position in the EPL on his own as a single pivot. The profile of player I suggested was a strong player who can play both decisions. I rate Mbodj, but you don’t. Football is a game of opinions.

  4. Re: Mr ‘Seeing through the bullshit’ – You mention football manager on two occasions. F.Y.I I have never played football manager. But I do agree that people should formulate their own opinions and watch football outside the Premier League. There is plenty of football available on TV and streaming these days to enjoy. The article wasn’t designed to ‘impress’, it was simply a few suggestions of where the team could be improved in my personal opinion. Others with have their own opinions and have commented on who they would also like to see. Your comment seems a little bitter, having a bad day?

  5. The comments on this article only highlights how little knowledge many Villa fans have on players outside of the Premier League. We who have that knowledge see many flaws in these so called “scouting reports”. They seem to be based on little more than a game of Football Manager IMO. I suppose it’s easy to impress people with your “knowledge” knowing they won’t have a clue about any of the players you’re mentioning? I would encourage people to create an opinion of their own. Watch said players, if possible, to get a REAL view of the quality(?) on show. There’s also an underlining lack of realism in many of these transfer target suggestions. Players who, except maybe on Football Manager, would never join the Villa at the minute, but most certainly join one of Europe’s biggest clubs. It’s not badly written at all but I feel it’s an easy way to score points with your readers. Open your eyes.

    • Dear Mr Bullshit,

      Thanks for your patronising of Villa fans by claiming they have no knowledge of players outside of the Premier League. While you’re busying yourself trolling other websites anonymously, blinded by your own ego, you obviously didn’t consider that other people as well as yourself, might ‘have that knowledge’.

      You seem keen to promote the game of Football Manager on here, but I for one, and also the writer of this article, have little interest in playing games.

      We assume our readers know everything we know, are into football on a global scale and also have a great sense of humour (which is needed for other sections of the site).

      We opened our eyes along time ago to how the media and various football blogs/websites try to feed football supporters with a constant diet of rehashed made-up transfer stories and pointless stats overload. Maybe you enjoy this kind of fodder?

      This article offers up suggestions, food for thought and also opinion. You may have noticed with your immense knowledge that Paul Lambert tends to buy players from European leagues and they tend to be players under the radar of some fans. Thus, I would venture, there’s a lot of logic to the players mentioned in this article.

      Also, the article is stimulating, thought-provoking and enjoyable from the feedback we’ve had from readers.

      As for trying to impress people, that seems to be what you’re trying to do here, Mr Bullshit.


  6. I don’t know how much you’ve seen of Genk Senagal player Kara Mbodj? Kara is a central defender. While being capable at DM I don’t think he’s played there more than about twice in the last two years. And you’re highly overrating him. Ability wise and valuation. He’s not the great player you’re making him out to be I’m afraid. I don’t believe he’s good enough to hold down a regular spot in our midfield (considering he really is a centre half…). Market value would probably be around £2.5M in my opinion. There’s a reason he only has six international caps at the age of 24.

  7. Hi Heathy, players seem to go to Russia to make their pile and then leave again. Many players reduce their salaries when they leave Russia for a better standard of football, but I’m not sure if Tosic or Honda for example would reduce their wages enough for us. Plus, I’d like to think Lambert would consider a 26 year old (like Leon), but he seems to be targeting generally 24 years old and under.

  8. Hi Andrew, good suggestion. He’s really playing well right now and is in the top five players in Europe in terms of assists (top five leagues). If you are performing at that level it does attract the interest of a lot of clubs. I tried to suggest players who are not as much on the radar for that area of the pitch, as there is always competition from clubs for number 10’s. In terms of defensive midfielders however, there are plenty around that can do a good job in that position. Mbodj’s replacement at Tromso is doing very well at the moment, and that might be a place Lambert prefers to look. Pools where other clubs don’t fish as often. Norway, Denmark, Poland etc. Lambert is certainly trying to look for unpolished raw talents, with perhaps Kiyo being an exception as he was playing well in Bundesliga and playing for Japan.

  9. Think Nurnberg don’t want to sell, but they look pretty dead and buried already this season, maybe they might sell to shake things up. I know Portillo has a buy out clause of 10m euros, but Malaga might accept less than that.

  10. The best player villa have at the moment is bacuna! When he went into midfield his first run brought the goal! Tonev looks fast, tricky and can deliver great balls into the box! Just needs to improve decision making! Kozak is looking good but is benteke a team player! Great player but out for himself! Future is bright! Utv

    • Apart from his magical freekicks, I’d like to see a bit more of Bacuna going forward. The defence seems to have strengthened with him at rightback, but Lowton seems to add more creativity going forward. Tonev certainly needs to learn composure, because without it, he will waste his talent.

  11. I know that we are chock full of left-footed defenders, but I think Lambert should have a look at Matt Besler of Sporting Kansas City in the MLS just for his throw-ins. He can deliver into the box on a rail, almost like a corner kick. With Benteke and Kozak in there, it could definitely add another threat to our attack.

    • You want us to become the new Stoke City? We’re already half-way there. Long throw-ins would probably complete the job! I prefer the purists approach of total football!

      • No, lots of things about Stoke’s game I would never want us to adopt, but I have no problem adding an additional scoring threat.

  12. I really do like the list and the players and it is EXACTLY the positions and kind of players I think we need to buy. But if we all see it, why doesnt Lambert and his staff? Is there something they see in the squad that we dont?

    Cause like you wrote, why did we bring Kozak instead of a playmaker? I have no idea, but on a day like today with Kozak scored the nail in the coffin I cant complain.

    Send this list to AVFC and hopefully they will pick someone up in January! UPV!

    • Think today showed why we got Kozak over a play-maker. Benteke was out injured, and is clearly not fully fit, Lambert seemingly doesn’t trust Helenius yet, then what? Bowery? We had no options in case Benteke got hurt, we now do.

    • Lambert has admitted in interviews last season that we’re missing a presence in midfield and it is puzzling why he hasn’t really got anyone in there to make a big difference. It would help the team’s composure, especially in possession. I hope he does buy someone in January that actually makes a difference rather than being one for the future.

  13. A great article and exactly what I like to see, someone doing research on players few Villa fans have ever heard of. Some great options in there, especially from the Belgian league.

    Gonna throw a name out there and go with Alexandru Maxim. Although more of a number 10 than a winger, which I believe he can play, he’s brilliant for Stuttgart, massive reason why Ibisevic scores so many for them and his free kicks are magic, he would hit Benteke 9 times out of 10.

    • Alexandru Maxim is potentially a decent call. I’m sure he must be on the radar of a few clubs, although I’m sure they’ll be waiting to see how he does over a full season in the German league first.

  14. Quality produced article yet again, in my opinion two positions are in dire need of strengthening, a new winger and number ten type player. I’ve not heard of every name on the article (well researched yet again); personally I would like to see Tom Ince (out of contract in the Summer) or Zoran Tosic in the claret and blue of Villa. I think Westwood, Sylla and Delph will grow in confidence if they are allowed to play with each other.

    • I’ve got a feeling Zoran Tosic might be on decent wages at CSKA, which Villa would never match. I’d have thought a team would have Tom Ince sown up by now. Shelley (this article writer) was keen on him in the summer window.

  15. Some good suggestions there, especially Frimpong. He could be a top player given the chance to flourish. I was hoping we would buy him in the summer.

    Could do without the stats overdose, though! Statistics have killed the modern game in my opinion. I’d rather have a midfielder who looks for tricky passes and only makes 75% of them than one who only passes 5 yards to the side and gets a 90% pass completion rate. *cough* Ray Houghton *cough*

    • I’m not big on stats either – haha. They’re good for cricket and American sports, but football is more of a fluid game where everything is relative.

  16. Although liking ur selection of players … the one thing that really hits me is ‘with allowing time to gel, i really cant see what impact’ .. and havent we supposedly got them type of players already? Anad do we really need em to add to the numbers … And no mention of Okore needing replacing … hmm ….

    I really like to keep the football simple … Yeah its gr8 havin a young team! but we need 1 or 2 experienced heads … so ok .. lets start from the back (as always) :

    goalkeeper – A+

    defense – given our financial ‘present’ situation, and the eventual return of Okore, i would get a loaned veteran in for cover (and wisdom)

    midfield – again cryin out for a play makin veteran. Lets splash the cash on that one!!!

    attack – no worries there (and plenty of competition)

    NB dont forget Tonev is very much a gifted playmaker and winger (who is ambidextrous with both feet) … and considering how much a (attacking) winger will be used this season, i would feel ‘quite’ comfortable having Albrighton and Johnson in the queue if necessary … UTV!!

    • Okore? It’s an article focused on the Villa midfield. Tonev certainly needs some games under his belt to find his feet, before anyone can really judge him.

  17. Amazing how you can be so well informed about so many players from several different leagues. I would think that you would almost need to be independently wealthy, or already working for someone as a professional scout to have such knowledge. I think you should approach AVFC about a job. We’ll see who we make moves for in a couple of months, but if these players, or someone equivalent, are not brought in, then we need to get you working in the club.

    • There’s little surprise that Shelley won the Manager of the Month for October in the MOMS Fantasy Premier League. Also, legend has it, when she worked at Chelsea FC, she taught Mourinho & AVB everything they know.

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