With the transfer window in full swing, ESPN FC's Aston Villa blogger, Kevin Hughes, discusses how Paul Lambert's side are shaping up ahead of the new season.
IN -- Kieran Richardson (Fulham, Undisclosed), Joe Cole (Unattached, Free), Philippe Senderos (Unattached, Free).
OUT -- Jordan Bowery (Rotherham, Undisclosed), Yacouba Sylla (Kayseri Erciyesspor, Loan), Niclas Helenius (Aalborg, Loan).
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The transfer budget has been pared back substantially by owner Randy Lerner, who has made it known the club is up for sale. The available funds might be as low as 10 million -- including the wages of any new signings -- and though that is not confirmed, one glance at the business conducted so far this summer suggests Villa manager Paul Lambert is shopping at the bargain end of the market.
Rate your business so far
A pretty average 6/10. Lambert is clearly targeting more Premier League experience, and he moved swiftly enough to secure Philippe Senderos and Joe Cole, both of whom have played for several years at this level. Both players might be past their best, but Senderos gives the team much-needed cover at centre-back, and Cole brings genuine class -- if he can stay fit. Villa have needed a No. 10 type for the past few years, and that role is made for Cole. Richardson reportedly cost around 600,000 pounds, which would be an absolute steal if he can solve Villa's problems at left-back. Although neither signing is especially exciting, they occupy positions in which Villa were weak the past season.
Who should be sold?
Lambert has already moved on two players who disappointed this past season, with Niclas Helenius and Yacouba Sylla loaned out to AaB and Kayseri Erciyesspor, respectively, for the 2014-15 campaign. Antonio Luna could be the next player to leave; the Spanish left-back has been linked with a switch to Italian club Verona and wasn't one of the 24 players used in the recent preseason friendly at Mansfield. There are likely to be more. Lambert might listen to reasonable offers for Aleksandar Tonev, Joe Bennett and Chris Herd, while the arrival of Senderos could make Nathan Baker available. Despite the re-integration to the squad of Shay Given, Alan Hutton and Darren Bent, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for them. Hutton is reportedly wanted by West Brom, and Bent has been linked with two Turkish clubs. If enquiries for the pair are focused on looking for loans or free transfers, rather than offering a fee, Lambert might decide they're better off being part of his squad for the coming months.
Who should be signed?
Transfer targets are few and far between this summer, as Villa are hardly likely to be among the Premier League's big spenders. That said, there have been two names persistently linked. South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-yueng is one, though what appeared to be a "done deal" a week or so ago now seems more complicated, with his agent claiming there has been no contact with Villa, while the player's club, Swansea, have insisted they plan to offer him a new contract. As it stands, Ki has a year remaining on his deal and spent the past season on loan at Sunderland. The other name is Nicklas Bendtner, who is available following his release by Arsenal. Villa could use a centre-forward in the short term -- while injured pair Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak regain full fitness -- but whether the Dane, who has hardly covered himself in glory in recent seasons, is the right recruit is a big question. There must be better options, even in the free market. A link with Brazilian striker Jefferson, who is playing Italian Serie B football, has gone quiet.
Problem solving: What do you need?
Villa need real quality in the centre of midfield, either a defensive type or a midfield general who can dominate that area of the pitch -- a player who can keep the ball and protect the back four. Ki would certainly do that. It would be encouraging to see Villa actually spend some money to get the right man -- Montpellier's Benjamin Stambouli would suit -- but in terms of cheaper options, both Esteban Cambiasso and Jermaine Jones could bring experience and ability to the club. Another free agent is Stephane M'Bia, who was released by QPR. The Cameroonian impressed on loan at Sevilla the past season and might appeal, as he can also operate at centre-back. Another possible option is Jack Rodwell, who seems destined to leave Manchester City. Villa might be priced out of a permanent transfer if City insist on a sizeable fee, but a season-long loan could be viable. Rodwell has been linked with a return to Everton, though now that the Merseysiders have signed Gareth Barry and are closing in on Bosnian Muhamed Besic (who would be perfect for Villa), they might be out of contention.