Set pieces both attacking and defending proved a basic problem for Aston Villa last season, but the capture of Dutch defender Ron Vlaar should go some way to rectifying the issue.
Aston Villa were the only team in the Premier League to fail to score a single goal from a set piece last season and Vlaar showed his aerial threat in a friendly against Northern Ireland when being among the scorers for Holland.
Meanwhile, Villa were also tame when it came to defending set pieces and Vlaar’s organisation could go some way into making them a tighter unit.
Reports suggest that Paul Lambert has only paid £3m for the defender who was part of Holland’s underachieving squad at Euro 2012, which would appear to be a snip of a price from Dutch runners-up Feyernoord.
The decision is a bit of a U-turn as Vlaar seemed set to join Villa a week ago, but this offer fell through.
Although, with Villa heading on tour to the USA, there is the likelihood that Lambert wanted to focus on the tour games rather than possible transfers and so put off the deal as it could not be concluded ahead of the squad’s departure.
However, he was quick to open terms again upon Villa’s return to continue their pre-season preparations and Vlaar has supposedly also said his goodbyes in Holland ahead of flying to Birmingham to finalise terms.
It will be interesting to see who Lambert picks as his central defensive unit now, with James Collins and Richard Dunne both showing signs of decline last season.
With Collins seeming the more likely to move on from Villa Park, Dunne would be the obvious partner for Vlaar, but youngster Ciaran Clark represents a bolder option if Lambert wants to get ageing players on relatively high wages off the club’s books.
Aston Villa may look dark horses to some at 7/1 to be relegated this season, but if Vlaar joins Brett Holman, Karim El Ahmadi and Matthew Lowton this summer, they appear to have more chance of regaining their spot in the top 10 rather than battling relegation.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.