During the summer of 2013, Aston Villa had been one of the busier clubs in the transfer market. A total of 7 players came in, later to be reinforced by two loanees in January. Likewise, 8 senior players left the club permanently in the summer, with several others including the likes of Darren Bent and Stephen Ireland leaving on loan.
Judging from the revolving door at Villa Park, the modus operandi at Villa Park was very clear: improve on the previous season's relegation scrap. In some sense Villa did achieve that; in the 2012-13 season Villa spent 9 weeks (out of the 38) in the relegation zone and spent a whopping 34 weeks below 14th. This season they only spent 5 weeks below 14th and were never in the relegation zone.
Those statistics give you the impression Villa had improved, that is the problem with statistics, you can make them do whatever you want. Just like in the 2012-13 season, Villa finished up in 15th place this season; what is even more startling is Villa had more points in the 2012-13 season (41) compared to this season (38) and scored far more in the previous season than this season.
Arguably the difference in points can be attributed to the fact this season will go down as the tightest Premier League season in history, whereas the previous season was full of teams obviously not cut out for the Premier League (QPR and Reading) or were severely inhibited by club instability (Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, Newcastle and Stoke).
Nonetheless, club instability happens every season to some poor club and with the amount of players revolving around Villa, the fans were correct to expect an improvement. Instead, what they got was more of the same, albeit in an inverse manner. Unlike the previous season, Villa started off well and by as late as the 29th week were in a lofty 10th place - where they had been for most of the year. It was around that time last season Villa began their great escape; this season they lost 7 of their remaining 9 games, winning only once.
What will be most worrying however, is the fact none of their signings, barring one, had an impact on their season. Injury robbed us of seeing what highly rated Jores Okore could do.
Given the likes of Benteke and Weimann who were so influential last season, took a step back this season, Villa were always going to be for inspiration from their summer and winter signings to provide a spark; aside from Leandro Bacuna, that did not happen.
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Villa spent just under 15 million for 7 players they brought outright this season, that roughly averages up to 2 million per signing. On this evidence it is hard to fault Lambert. It appears owner Randy Lerner agrees as he is planning to sell the club - Villa fans better hope he sells the club in time for a fruitful transfer window, because another season like this and Villa will be favourites for the drop.
Consequentially, I can only give Aston Villa an E grade, simply because if anything else had gone wrong, they would have been relegated, securing them an F grade.