Not one, but two signings confirmed in a day, announced within an hour or so of each other. Little beats the buzz which comes when a new face wears those famous claret and blue colours for the very first time; to see both Jores Okore and Leandro Bacuna posing in Villa's 2013-14 home shirt solicited a common reaction: When can the season start? - Bacuna makes Villa move - Villa complete Okore signing Not soon enough, for Villa. It has been an enormously satisfying week. New contracts accepted by two of the club's most promising young players, Andreas Weimann and Nathan Baker, confirmation of the signings of Okore and Bacuna, joining Aleksandar Tonev in the 'player in' box, the release of next season's home and away kits, and the promise of a fourth new recruit in the not-too-distant future.
His full first name is Andreas, but to Villa fans he is, and always will be, Andi. There is more than casual Anglicisation behind this re-naming, for there is genuine affection for the striker and the announcement that he has agreed a new three-year deal is cause for delight. Andi Weimann has grown up as a part of the Villa family, and the club could simply not let him either drift away on a free transfer in 12 months' time, or lose him to via a cut-price to Arsenal, or Liverpool, or Norwich, or Sunderland, or any other of the clubs reportedly eyeing a move for him.
The first week in June, and Villa's first new signing of the season is through the door. Aleksandar Tonev is signed, sealed and 99 percent delivered, with the final administration elements of the deal expected to be covered off in the next couple of days. Nevertheless, Villa felt sufficiently comfortable with proceedings to announce the new signing on its official club website before the weekend, and included a first interview with Tonev, and images of the Bulgarian resplendent in training gear.
How to digest the news emanating from France that Villa are contenders to sign Montpellier's talented forward Younes Belhanda? What appeared 48 hours ago to be an example of transfer rumour silly season, has developed into a story with substance and encouragement for Villa. Following comments from Montpellier chairman Louis Nicollin that the Midlanders are one of five clubs to have made an offer for Belhanda, the player himself has spoken. Reportedly allowed the luxury of choosing his destination, quotes from Belhanda will inflate Villa hopes of winning the race for his signature.
Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes, Rafael Benitez, Roberto Mancini, Tony Pulis, Mark Hughes. The 2012-13 Premier League season ended but a few weeks ago, and already all these coaches have either departed their clubs or taken over new ones. There may be further changes at other clubs throughout the summer. For the sake of stability, and progression, it is to be hoped that there will be no managerial vacancy at Aston Villa during the close season, that for the first time since 2009 the coach who concludes one season is still in place as the new one begins, and beyond.
It's doubtful that a Premier League manager has more than the briefest of holidays at any stage of the year. While his squad are either already enjoying the close season break, or on international duty ahead of a month's rest, Villa coach Paul Lambert will be pre-occupied planning already for the 2013-14 campaign: fail to prepare, prepare to fail, as the saying goes. As Lambert considers his squad, the incomings and outgoings, the strengths and deficiencies, the areas of concern and the issues he needs to addresses, the following will surely be his priorities: 1.
If the events of the last couple of days are anything to go by, it could be a long and wearying summer for Villa fans. In the space of the last 48 hours or so, some Christian Benteke developments: he wants to leave, to join Arsenal; he's happy at Villa, at least for another season, in preparation for the 2014 World Cup; he's so happy at Villa, in fact, he's plotting a secret plan to convince international teammate Romelu Lukaku to come and join him in the claret and blue. - Benteke 'disgusted' by Arsenal reports Is anything of this actually true?
In one of the least surprising items of Villa news in the past year, Richard Dunne has left the club. He will surely be followed by other senior members of the squad, as Villa's mission statement of overhauling the playing staff continues into the close season period. A decision on Dunne was straightforward, and entirely expected. The final 12 months of the four-year contract he signed in August 2009 passed by rather uneventfully, in terms of actually playing football, at least: Dunne failed to make a single appearance for the senior side or any other team at the club throughout the whole season.
The relegation six-pointer that never was. Sunday's match could have been one of excruciating tension for Villa, the last hurdle needing to be cleared before confirming Premier League survival. Instead, with insurmountable daylight between Villa and Wigan, it was only ever going to be one of those routine, season-ending affairs. So it proved, with both sides serving up an entertaining 2-2 draw at the DW Stadium. Villa's performance, it has to be said, was indicative of the good and bad they have delivered for much of the campaign.
A genuinely new selection dilemma to occupy Paul Lambert's thoughts ahead of the final match of the Premier League season, away to Wigan. Suspension will deprive the Villa manager of the services of Christian Benteke, making the big striker unavailable for the first time this season. - Lambert to hold critical Benteke talks Benteke has played every league match -- starting 32, appearing as a substitute twice -- since making his debut against Swansea in September, Villa's fourth game of the campaign: 34 out of 34.
Villa players learned their Premier League status was secured for another season without even kicking a ball, no doubt watching Wigan's 4-1 defeat to Arsenal from the comfort of their own homes. After seeing Wigan draw level through former Villan Shaun Maloney right on halftime, there was understandable relief when the Gunners coasted clear with three second half goals. The way the game petered out almost casually was in stark contrast to the heightened sense of anxiety the Villa contingent would have been feeling during both the build-up to the game, and throughout the first half.
So close. So close to being the perfect finale to a season of trials and tribulations, with Villa on the brink of victory against Chelsea Saturday until Frank Lampard stole the show with two second-half goals, sealing a 2-1 win for the visitors. Lampard, of course, has made a career out of bagging important goals, and plenty of them; his two at Villa Park made him Chelsea's all-time leading scorer. But Villa, if not in control, certainly had the upper hand in this game until, in a tempestuous second half, Christian Benteke was sent off for his second yellow card of the day.