Date: 19th July 2012 at 10:26am
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C.Bick on five things Villans can look forward to this season

1.. Players working to their full potential. – One of Paul Lambert’s greatest attributes is that which Alex McLeish was so frustratingly unable to achieve last campaign. It is the ability to get the best out of the players. Can you imagine how good Villa would be if Marc Albrighton, Stephen Ireland, Gabby Agbonlahor, and others were to play the best football they could week in, week out? We would be challenging for Europe easily. The Villa squad is loaded with talented young players trying to earn their place but, due to changes in leadership, have sadly been devoid for years of a coaching staff who can lead them in the right direction. Lambert brings with him a history of working with young talent from lower leagues and was able to lead a squad who had, for the most part, never experienced league play of the Premiership’s calibre to a solid mid-table finish. Expect break-out campaigns from players such as Fabian Delph and Marc Albrighton who struggled for confidence all of last season.

2.. Intelligent Signings. – Lambert has spent the majority of his managerial career in the lower divisions of English football. As a result, it can probably be concluded that PL has a pretty good idea of where the talent is. We can most likely expect 1 or 2 more signings from the lower leagues before the summer is concluded. Lambert has also demonstrated an understanding of the value of the Dutch league and what it has to offer Premier League clubs on a budget. Expect Villa to be linked with Dutch league players every transfer window as the amount of talent being pumped from the Netherlands is non-stop.

3.. Beating Liverpool. Twice. – And it’s not as far-flung as you may think. Let me explain. Swansea and Norwich had very similar seasons last campaign. Some think it may have caused a bit of a rivalry between the two young up and coming managers. Most would agree that despite being level on points with Swansea at the end of last season, Norwich had an inferior squad. Not by a lot, but by a noticeable margin. Yet Norwich managed to beat Swansea in both fixtures. Liverpool and Villa also had similar seasons the last campaign around, but unfortunately for different reasons. Both squads had under-performing strikers and newly signed wingers, dim-witted Scots for managers, awful home records, angry fans, and pathetically underwhelming finishes. So since the circumstances for Lambert and Rodgers have more or less stayed the same between them, Villa will do the double over Liverpool.

4.. Noise returning to Villa Park. – It wasn’t too long ago that Talk Sport’s list of the loudest premier league stadiums ranked Villa Park third out of 20. This past season however, I’d say we would have dropped down to around 17-20th. Not that the fans can be blamed for the noise reduction. In truth, there was really nothing much to be loud about the entire campaign, but even TV commentators frequently spoke of how quiet Villa Park was particularly during the end of season matches. However, Paul Lambert has made all the right moves in addressing that by moving the dugout to the Holte End and also being vocal in his desire to “make Villa Park a fortress. However, as we all know what will really bring the noise back to VP will be good football and winning matches, which brings me to our next topic:

5.. Results. – They may not come immediately, they may not be against top opposition, but Lambert has proved time and time again that he has the ability to produce results when he needs to, and in most cases, a bit more. In terms of analysing raw talent, I would say Villa rank about 9-10th in the league. Funny enough, that’s where most pundits put Villa in the end of year predictions. But Lambert is an overachiever. He’s proved that time and time again. Norwich should have finished last, but ended up 12th. So for me, it will be 7-8th , and that is definitely something to look forward to. UTV.