In seasons gone by we as fans have spent many an hour debating where the priorities should be when it comes to transfer activity in the summer months. At this point though I think everyone is fully aware that our back four is where the attention is needed and only the minimum of at least two defenders will allow us as a club to take some steps forward this season.
Central midfield has always been a hot topic although with LVC, Hyndman, O’Hara and Cairney all looking sharp in pre-season, it appears we may not be as reliant on Parker as we have been in the past. Our defense though seems to be the Achilies heel, desperate for some consistency, leadership and communication.
The left-back slot has been an issue ever since Konchesky left for Liverpool. Fans were never won over by John Arne Riise but I will hold my hands up and say I have renewed respect for the Norweigian having had to suffer Stafylidis for the last 12 months. Young Kavanagh played there at the weekend against Crawley, and while he is certainly a prospect, it is an area we continue to lack any depth in. If paper talk is anything to go by (which it isn’t) then Symons is certainly assessing a number of options including Jake Bidwell from Brentford. Hopefully something is on the horizon.
On the other side, at right-back, we have the permanently acquired Jazz Richards from Swansea and young prospect Jack Grimmer. Richards strikes me as one of those now all to familiar full backs who are a lot more comfortable going forward than they are defending. Grimmer is by no means the finished article but seems a lot more suited to the role than Kavanagh is on the left. I get the impression that were we to have three solid performers in the other defensive roles then both Richards and Grimmer would be good enough to complete a back four, given time to develop as the season goes on.
His form for the Yorkshire club attracted admirers from Premier League outfits. Leeds went on to lose the play-off semi final against Millwall and speculation arose of Delph’s future. Arsene Wenger was reported to have made a £6 million offer before United accepted a £8 million bid from Aston Villa. On the 3rd of August 2009, his move to Villa Park was complete.
Delph made his full Premier League debut against Wigan on August 15th 2009. The game finished 2-0 to Wigan, however, the Villa faithful saw potential in their new midfielder. It was a slow introduction to life at a top flight club but in January 2010 he scored his first goal for the Midlands side in an FA Cup tie against Brighton.
However, he wasn’t allowed to kick on from that point after being carried off on a stretcher during training with a cruciate knee ligament injury in April. Almost 10 months later, in February 2011, Delph made his return to football, replacing Nathan Baker at left-back against Blackburn Rovers.
Despite his lack of appearances, Delph signed a new deal in March 2011 with Aston Villa which would keep him at the club until 2015. He struggled to break into the first-team though and in January 2012 was loaned back to his old club Leeds United. Unfortunately injuries hit again, Delph suffered an ankle problem in United’s defeat to Coventry and returned to Villa for treatment.
Since then though, the combative midfielder has gone from strength to strength. The 2012 -13 Premier League season was where Delph really made his name and established himself as a regular in Paul Lamberts side. He made 25 league appearances and became a fan favorite. The following term he went on to make 34 Premier League appearances, scoring three goals.
Two impressive campaigns saw him Delph get his first England senior call up in August of last year, leading to a debut against Norway and surprise start against Switzerland in September.
Roy Hodgson is a fan of the player and he has been a England regular ever since. Following that boost the Villa captain flourished in many of his 28 Premier League appearances and scored in the FA Cup semi-final defeat of Liverpool.
His move to Manchester City will go down as one of the most contentious transfers of all time, however, if he becomes a regular, the 25-year-old has a big future ahead of him at both club and international level.
As for centre backs, well the communication at the Checkatrade stadium on Saturday was near enough non existent. Bodurov and Hutchinson were guilty of not carrying out even the most basic positioning and marking during the first half. Bodurov more so has perhaps established himself as the best of a bad bunch but still needs some quality alongside him.
What we lack more than anything though is a leader, someone capable of organising a line and assisting the younger players in their step up to the first-team. While I fully appreciate that as a club we have probably learnt our lesson in relying too much on aging professionals, I can’t help but feel this is one of the rare cases that a senior appointment would be beneficial. Talk of Lewis Dunk from Brighton is certainly a step in the right direction but equally a seasoned pro would, in my eyes, be welcome. Not to sound too cliche but someone who knows the English leagues and has prior experience of wearing an armband would be ideal.
With just a few weeks until we get underway I feel cautiously optimistic about the season ahead. A few additions in the right areas and I think we will be finishing just outside the play-offs and all set for a promotion push the year after. Some may call it lacking ambition but we are building for the long-term.