Note: Over the rest of the week we're going to be looking at players that might be good fits for Aston Villa. Note that these are NOT necessarily players who have been linked to Villa. Instead, we'll consider what the club can currently do and what needs it has in order to throw out some realistic options.
To kick things off I'm going to toss out a name that we heard a lot of last January: Wes Hoolahan. The common complaint at the time was that the Norwich CIty midfielder represented a stunning lack of ambition for Aston Villa. It's not a sentiment with which I entirely disagree, either. Hoolahan is not the type of player around whom you build a team. He's not flashy, nor is he set to improve much in the coming year. And given the fact that Villa were sitting in 10th at the end of January, it seemed as if perhaps one key player could tilt them into safety and perhaps even into respectability.
But even at the time, I argued that Hoolahan would be a really smart buy for Paul Lambert. He's not a player who will light the world aflame, but he is a player with exceedingly solid fundamental skills. He can maintain possession, he can pass accurately, and every once in a while he can create an opportunity or even score himself. Oh, and he (had Norwich City been willing to sell reasonably) would have come fairly cheaply. Given the fact that Fabian Delph was pretty much holding down the midfield on his own at the time, it made a lot of sense to me.
So what has changed since then? Well, Villa are no longer in 10th, nor are they predicted to be anywhere near there. The signings of Joe Cole, Philippe Senderos, and Kieran Richardson (however good those signings may be) signal that "ambition" isn't a watchword around Villa Park any more. Even if it were, Paul Lambert doesn't have the funds necessary to strive for that type of signing. And Norwich City are now in The Championship, which should make convincing them to sell a bit more easy.
Aside from that, the situation remains largely the same. Cole and Richardson should help the midfield some, but the former is so injury prone as to not be worth counting on and the latter seems destined to fill in at left back. So the midfield still needs some solid, possession-based help. Hoolahan should still be relatively cheap and certainly provides the Premier League experience that Paul Lambert seems to be looking for.
The problem that remains is Norwich City. Hoolahan was reportedly quite superb for them in their last preseason friendly, and there still seems to be bitterness between the Canaries and Paul Lambert. If that hurdle could be overcome, Hoolahan seems like the type of player who could be perfect for Villa this summer: dependable, solid, and cheap. It's not exciting, but given the current state of the club I'll take smart over ambitious any day.