Only a few hours after announcing the departure of James Collins to West Ham, Paul Lambert moved to boost his defensive options with the capture of Dutchman Ron Vlaar from Feyenoord. The centre-half makes his way to Villa Park on a three-year deal and is the fourth player to arrive this summer, following the acquisitions of Brett Holman, Matthew Lowton and Karim El Ahmadi, as the former Norwich boss continues to restructure his first-team squad:
Having been linked with Vlaar for a number of weeks, Lambert was clearly delighted to finally clinch the 27-year-old’s signature. Speaking to the club’s official website upon completion of the deal, the Aston Villa boss described the Dutchman as a “proper player”, before going on to say:
Ron is a really good defender and he has a wealth of experience for both Holland and a big football club in Feyenoord, so I’m delighted we have got him here to Villa. I like the way the guy wants to do well. He’s hungry and he wants to succeed. He’s also a really good, strong defender and hopefully we will get the benefit of him in our team…He’s captained Feyenoord and he’s been in the Dutch international set-up and was part of the Euros. He’ll bring something to the club, no doubt about it.
Vlaar began his career with Dutch club AZ Alkmaar, signing a five-year youth contract with the club at the age of 17. Making his debut in the 2004-05 campaign, he managed just 10 appearances under Louis Van Gaal over a couple of seasons, however. With plenty of suitors – including Ajax and Tottenham – circling for his signature, Vlaar claimed his manager refused to play him unless he penned a full-time contract – as a result, he opted to leave and signed for Feyenoord in December 2005.
Over the course of his five-and-a-half seasons with the club, Vlaar’s game time has been somewhat curtailed by injury. Twice, he has succumbed to cruciate ligament damage, while foot and knee problems have also blighted his career. He has, however, missed only 10 league matches over the past three campaigns and was an ever-present last season, skippering his side to second in the Eredivisie and ensuring Champions League football for the season ahead. In total, he featured 126 times for the Dutch outfit, scoring eight goals and providing five assists. Despite several call-ups to the international set-up, Vlaar has struggled to break into the Holland starting line-up – to date, he has featured just seven times for his national side, notching a single goal.
Fantasy managers will be more than a little wary of investing in Villa’s defence, given how detrimental Lambert’s penchant for attacking football was to Norwich’s backline last time round. While there’s no denying the Canaries impressed offensively – only the top six scored more than their 52 goals – at the back, they were abysmal. Only the three relegated sides conceded more than their 66 goals and, with Norwich failing to register a single away clean sheet all season, they received minimal defensive investment. Darren Bent has already revealed Lambert intends to maintain his approach this season, suggesting Villa could well be a frustrating proposition at the back next term.
So far, both James Collins and Carlos Cuellar have departed as Lambert looks to rebuild and with Richard Dunne now sidelined for six-to-eight weeks with a groin injury, Villa’s central defensive options are suddenly narrowed down, making Vlaar a key figure at the back already. Given how highly he rates the Dutchman, it may well be that Lambert sees the 6 foot 2 stopper as the cornerstone of his new-look defence – perhaps a suggestion that his game time will be assured. Certainly, Fantasy managers will be hoping for far less rotation than we were used to with Norwich last season – another reason why the Canaries were such a frustrating investment.
The new boy has yet to be added to the Fantasy games but a price of 5.0 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) looks on the cards, bearing in mind both Collins and Richard Dunne were given this valuation when the prices were revealed earlier this month. With regards to the Sky Sports game, the afore-mentioned pair have been priced at 5.3 and 5.4 and a similar outcomes seems likely. At present, Ciaran Clark is one to watch as a possible partner for Vlaar in the heart of defence and comes in at 4.5 in FPL, while Enda Stevens has impressed at left-back in recent pre-season friendlies; the latter is just 4.0 in FPL and could potentially be a bargain, depending on Lambert’s first-team thoughts for the season ahead.
Certainly, the opening schedule has been more than kind to Villa. With home games against (EVE, SWA, WBA) and trips to (whm, new, sot) the potential to pick up the Fantasy points is obvious. While the likes of Darren Bent and Charles N’Zogbia could be in line to prosper, the jury may be out on Vlaar until we see whether Lambert can strike a better balance between defence and attack this time round.
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