As a result of a drastically slashed budget and wage bill at Villa Park this season, Paul Lambert, in his first year in charge, has had to resort to young, unproven talent in order to form his squad that remains in transition.
Ashley Westwood, Joe Bennett and Matthew Lowton arrived from the Football League whilst Christian Benteke and Ron Vlaar were signed for cheap fees from Belgium and the Netherlands respectively.
A relegation battle has ensued, but as they pull clear with a good run of results there has raised an optimism that they may well survive to take to the Premier League once more with an exciting young squad.
One of those promising talents was already at the club before Lambert but one the Scot has not been averse in showing faith in, the Austrian striker Andreas Weimann.
As a seven year old, Weimann joined his hometown club of FC Stadlau for whom he progressed through the youth set-up to be involved more in the senior reaches of the squad. His progress was monitored by Rapid Vienna, who invited the striker for a trial in 2005.
In a practice match, Weimann duly impressed and he was signed up by Vienna, with whom he spent two years in the academy before being noticed by scouts of Aston Villa.
Weimann signed for Villa on youth terms in 2007 together with fellow Austrian Dominik Hofbauer, and was allowed to train and develop with the club before he was due to turn professional in 2010.
In his final year of his youth contract, Weimann travelled with the club on the pre-season Peace Cup tournament of Asia, then went on to top score for the reserves with nine goals. His impressive performances for the reserves earned him a new deal, which he signed to tie him to the club until 2012.
Weimann featured heavily in Aston Villa’s pre-season of the 2010/11 campaign and he made his full league debut as a substitute against West Ham. Caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald gave him a substitute appearance against his old club Rapid Vienna in the UEFA Cup, but he suffered a long-term injury, not returning to training until January.
After returning, he moved on loan to Watford for the rest of the season, playing 19 times for the Hornets in the Championship, scoring 4 goals.
The striker featured in the early rounds of the League Cup in the following season and he signed a new deal to keep him at the club until 2014. He immediately returned to Watford for a second loan spell, this time playing just 3 times as he returned to the Midlands amidst growing injury concerns.
However, he went on to feature 14 times as Villa narrowly avoided relegation under Alex McLeish, bundling in a late winner against Fulham for his first ever Villa goal, and also earning them a vital 1-1 draw against Stoke.
This season under the guidance of Paul Lambert, Weimann has shown his talent, scoring eleven times so far in his breakthrough year. 2 strikes against Manchester United hinted at his strong finishing and predatory instinct, whilst a superb team goal away at Liverpool indicated a blossoming partnership with Benteke in attack.
The combination also linked up for Weimann to score against Swansea. Lambert has played his Austrian striker 32 times this season in a tremendous show of faith in the promise and talent he possesses, the 21 year old has repaid his boss with eleven goals in all competitions.
On the international scene, Weimann has represented Austria at all levels from under-17s to under-21s, scoring 14 goals along the way, but in October 2012, the striker earned his first senior cap for Austria, appearing against Kazakhstan.
The youngster has gone on to earn 5 caps for his country.
Strengths, style and weaknesses
The most striking factor about Weimann is his versatility that allows him to play as the centre-forward, or right across the attacking three in Paul Lambert’s 4-2-3-1 which is usually led by Christian Benteke. Playing to the right of the Belgian, Weimann has appeared 7 times, scoring 3 goals and registering 1 assist.
As a centre forward, the Austrian has appeared 6 times, scoring twice. He was also used as a left midfielder against QPR recently, proving a success as he scored and assisted another in a 3-2 win.
His low number of assists, just 2, and only 20 chances created from his 26 appearances so far in the league, suggests Weimann is a direct striker, preferring to head straight towards goal rather than link the play. He averages just 20 passes per game and for a player who spends most of his time in the final third, his lack of key passes, under 1 per game, indicates his single-minded attacking play.
He has taken 43 shots in his 26 appearances at an accuracy of 55%, again hinting at his willingness to go direct. This is a consequence of his pace fitting into Lambert’s system where Villa soak up pressure and pounce on the counter attack with quick, energetic players running off the hub of the physical target-man Benteke.
Weimann’s low passing accuracy of 79% suggests how little of the ball the Austrian sees of the ball in the final third, instead he makes a nuisance of his pace, operating off knock-downs from his Belgian partner.
His ability to turn and run at defenders, using his pace to full effect, makes Weimann a vital part of Lambert’s team, another youngster the Scottish manager has seemingly got the best out of as he seeks to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
The biggest testament to Weimann’s burgeoning talent is that he appears to be ahead of senior strikers Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor in the Villa Park pecking order.
It has been a great achievement for the 21 year old who has made over 20 appearances in one season for the first time in his career. The suspicion is that there will be many more to come yet.
Weimann has just 12 months left to run on his current deal and Villa have grown a concern that he may walk away for nothing next summer. The club have offered the Austrian striker 2 previous deals while reports claim that he has even turned a third offer, but the Austrian press say that negotiations are still going on between the player and the club.
Liverpool are reportedly being kept unofficially informed over Weimann’s situation and believe he could move for as little as £5 million this summer. The Anfield club see him as a potential replacement for Dirk Kuyt as an industrious striker who can play out wide.
Norwich and Inter Milan are also rumoured to be chasing the young Austrian, as well as Borussia Dortmund who are looking to add to the fine attacking line of Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus and Mario Gotze.
Villa and Lambert will be desperate to keep the young Austrian however after he played such a vital role in last year’s escape from relegation and is continuing to contribute significantly to this season’s late charge.
Whatever happens to the striker, there is little doubt that Villa have unearthed another young gem who will go far in the game.
Written by Adam Gray
F0llow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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