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Whoscored: Pleasant early Prem surprises

Southampton Sep 26, 2014
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Kevin Hughes Aston Villa  By Kevin Hughes
Sep 3, 2014

How did Villa do in the window?

Aston Villa have completed the loan signing of Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley after the Premier League ratified the transfer.

Ins and Outs

Players in: Joe Cole (West Ham, free), Philippe Senderos (Valencia, free), Kieran Richardson (Fulham, undisclosed), Aly Cissokho (Valencia, undisclosed), Carlos Sanchez (Elche, undisclosed)

Players out: Nathan Delfouneso (Blackpool, free), Marc Albrighton (Leicester, free), Nicklas Helenius (Aalborg, loan), Yacouba Sylla (Kayseri Erciyesspor, loan), Antonio Luna (Verona, loan), Joe Bennett, Gary Gardner (Brighton, loan), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord, undisclosed)

Summing up the window

Eventually concluding a season-long loan for Tom Cleverley, with the deal confirmed several hours after the deadline, completed a productive window for Villa. It was surprisingly pleasing transfer window for Villa, given that very little budget was reported to be available. Lambert has clearly prioritised the 'now' rather than trying to build a squad for the long-term future, which is probably wise considering the club is for sale. Three of the new signings -- Philippe Senderos, Aly Cissokho and Kieran Richardson -- started the season in the first XI, and it will be only a matter of time before Carlos Sanchez is a regular in the side. The squad now has more depth, experience and quality. Heading out were a group of players on the fringes of the team with no significant departures -- crucially, Villa have kept hold of captain Ron Vlaar and last season's player of the year, Fabian Delph. 7/10.

Best piece of business

The signing of Sanchez, the type of player Villa have needed for several years. The Colombian should bring authority, power, presence and class to the team, operating as the anchor in the middle of midfield. He'll protect the defence and give Villa genuine strength in a key position. That he cost just less than five million pounds from La Liga side Elche suggests he could be among the bargains of the transfer window. That is cheap for a man who was such an influence in one of the best teams in the summer's FIFA World Cup.

Carlos Sanchez brings some much-needed physicality to the Aston Villa midfield.
Carlos Sanchez brings some much-needed physicality to the Aston Villa midfield.

Worst piece of business

It is difficult to nominate a name. All of Villa's incoming transfers make sense as they strengthen areas of the team which were vulnerable last season. The only gamble, possibly, is Cole because of his recent injury problems, but as a free transfer, there's minimal risk anyway. If the former England playmaker can still produce a bit of magic here and there he'll be worth it. The only concern is whether Villa have offloaded too many players -- El Ahmadi and Bennett are two who might have been useful to retain for the season to provide cover in central midfield and at left-back.

What remaining issues are there?

Villa have looked like a team struggling for goals in the first weeks of the season -- or did until beating Hull -- and while long-term absentees Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak will return from injury at some stage, there's no guarantee they'll both be on schedule or that either striker will hit top form quickly. Lambert might regret not bringing in a centre-forward, even on loan, during the transfer window. That decision could backfire if there are any setbacks or issues with his sidelined duo. There's also a suspicion that Villa are missing a winger with pace, someone to stretch opposition defences and offer a direct threat.

Who can help in January

Lambert hasn't traditionally done a lot of business in the January transfer window since being at Villa -- just four deals in the past two seasons, three of those loans. He's likely to use it as a chance to fix any problem areas, and if Villa are still short on attacking flair, Lambert might check on the loan availability of players struggling to get regular game time elsewhere. Mohamed Salah at Chelsea, Serge Gnabry at Arsenal, Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj and Suso at Liverpool are all forward players who could make a positive impact. The manager might also revive a move for Sergio Canales, though the player's club, Real Sociedad, rebuffed a deadline-day offer.

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