Premier League preview: Aston Villa

Paul Lambert will be looking for progression from his evolving side. Photo: PA

*Last season: *15th

After a slow start to the 2012/13 season, Paul Lambert's methods eventually had an effect on the youthful Aston Villa squad, as his squad were kept alive in the Premier League.

Villa spent the majority of the campaign flirting with the bottom three, as Lambert's ethos of buying young players looked to have backfired, but the squad learnt from their early failures to pick up the necessary 41 points and finish in 15th place.

The Scot's mind was quickly made up on £24million striker Darren Bent, who he saw as surplus to requirements, with the England international rarely featuring in a struggling outfit, and was replaced as the central forward by the superior all round footballer Christian Benteke.

Now that youngsters such as Ashley Westwood and Matthew Lowton have established themselves as Premier League quality players, and main man Benteke has agreed a new deal with the Midlands club, the fans will be hoping that they can move up the table this time around.

In addition to his promising talents from last year, Lambert has been scouring the European leagues to bring in the likes of young Danish duo Jores Okore and Niklas Helenius, as the manager looks to build for seasons to come.

After experiencing one full season in the English top flight, the likes of Andi Weimann and Ciaran Clark should know how to deal with the rough on tumble offered each week in the Premier League.

Due to their over-reliance on Benteke, if the Belgian frontman were to get injured then the side might struggle once more, with Bent being offered to anyone who can afford him, and Helenius being completed untested at this level.

Westwood's passing and calm nature in the centre of the park has made England manager Roy Hodgson sit up and take notice, as he considers calling up the technically gifted former Crewe man, who now looks at bargain at £2million.

What was previously a naive defence held together by the experience of Ron Vlaar can now boast a collection of players with plenty of Premier League games under their leather belts, which should give them the impetus needed to push on up the table to respectability.

In: Aleksandr Tonev (Lech Poznan, undisc), Jores Okobe (FC Nordsjaelland, £4m), Leandro Bacuna (Groningen, undisc), Niklas Helenius (Aalborg, undisc), Antonio Luna (Sevilla, undisc), Jed Steer (Norwich, free)

Out: Calum Barrett, Joshua Barton, Courtney Cameron, Daniel Devine, Richard Dunne, Eric Lichaj, Andy Marshall (All released)

Benteke is unmistakably the main man at Villa Park. Credit: WhoScored.com

Player to watch: Christian Benteke

The Big Belgian was a revelation last season scoring 19 goals in a struggling side, which brought the attention of bigger clubs, but the striker (after much consideration) has decided to stay at Villa Park having agreed a new four-year deal. His prowess in front of goal will once again be Villa's main threat, and he will need to be primed if Villa are to challenge for a top ten spot this time around.

Something to prove: Fabian Delph

Following his big money move from Leeds back in 2009. the young Englishman has struggled to make an impact at Villa Park, despite being tipped to become an England international by many in the game. However, the Yorkshireman enjoyed a resurgence playing alongside Westwood in the final months of last season, but will now be looking to perform on a more consistent basis.

Predicted finish: 11th

Title odds: 2000/1

Your view:

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@itvfootball Anywhere between 8-14th. Bought well in transfer market and kept our best player. Young players will only improve