Scouting Report: EPL stalwarts open three-game U.S. tour in Chester
It wasn’t the best season for Aston Villa. The historic Birmingham-based club finished 16th in the English Premier League in 2012, the team’s worst finish in the last five years.
But the American-owned club has no shortage of talent, and there’s a new man in charge.
Manager Paul Lambert joined Villa from Norwich City at the end of the 2011-2012 campaign. The 42-year-old Scotsman will look to re-energize a club that finished in 6th place in the EPL for three consecutive seasons from 2008 to 2010.
Villa will play three matches on this pre-season USA tour, opening with Philadelphia before traveling to Chicago and Portland.
Aston Villa Attack
International Football fans will be most familiar with strikers Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor. Bent is a proven goal scorer in the Premier League, with successful stints at Charlton Athletic, Tottenham, and Sunderland. He’s bagged 18 goals in 38 appearances since joining Villa. Fellow Englishman Agbonlahor is pushing 225 appearances for the “Villans”. He’s scored 53 goals, and started his tenure way back in 1994 as a member of the club’s youth system.
Bent and Agbonlahor are two of the four strikers carried by Lambert on this 25-man roster. 20-year-old Andreas Weiman is returning to Villa following a loan spell at Watford. 21-year-old Nathan Delfouneso is also coming off a recent loan spell.
Midfielder Stephen Ireland was linked with a move to the New York Red Bulls in recent months. The 25-year-old was a Manchester City mainstay until the club’s takeover by Sheikh Mansour in 2008.
EPL fans will also recognize French winger Charles N’Zogbia. The former Wigan and Newcastle man enters his second season with Villa.
Brett Holman joined in the off-season from Jozy Altidore’s AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands.The Australia international will play his first season in English football.
The rest of the Villa attack and midfield is comprised of younger players with varying experience on the pitch. Barry Bannan, Chris Herd, and Fabian Delph are among the players in their early twenties on the Villa roster. 19-year-old Samir Carruthers has a bright future, and Daniel Johnson and Gary Gardner both look to have upside.
Aston Villa Defense
American fans will know former Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who just signed a new three year deal with Villa. The Chicago native will battle with Ireland international Shay Given for the starting job.
Fullback Eric Lichaj is the other American on the Villa roster. Lichaj spent part of the 2011 season on loan to Leeds United, but looks set to fight for a starting spot in 2012.
Richard Dunne is an experienced center half in the EPL. James Collins and Stephen Warnock are also regular starters along the backline.
A number of younger defenders, including Matt Lowtown, Nathan Baker, and Enda Stevens, should also see action on this U.S. Tour.
Villa USA Tour Roster
Forwards: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Darren Bent, Nathan Delfouneso, Andreas Weimann
Midfielders: Barry Bannan, Samir Carruthers, Fabien Delph, K.E. Ahmadi, Gary Gardner, Chris Herd, Brett Holman, Stephen Ireland, Daniel Johnson, Charles N'Zogbia
Defenders: Nathan Baker, Ciaran Clark, James Collins, Richard Dunne, Eric Lichaj, Matt Lowton, Enda Stevens, Stephen Warnock
Aston Villa Fast Facts
Location: Birmingham, England
Stadium: Villa Park (Capacity 42,000)
Nicknames: The “Villans”, The Lions
Manager: Paul Lambert
Main rival: Birmingham City F.C.
League titles: 7
FA Cup Wins: 7
2011-2012 league record: 7 wins, 17 draws, 14 losses (38 points, 16th place)