Three players Aston Villa should sign

Sports Mole picks out three players that we feel should be transfer targets of Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert.

Over the last two seasons, Villa Park has not been the happiest of places to watch football.

With a largely inexperienced squad at his disposal, manager Paul Lambert has found it tough going. His charges have managed to keep their heads above water where relegation to the Championship is concerned, but only just.

What's more, rumour has it that Lambert has only been given a budget of £10m to improve his options this summer. Here, Sports Mole has picked out three players that we believe would greatly improve Aston Villa.

Joel Ward, Crystal Palace

Joel Ward of Crystal Palace controls the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Fulham at Selhurst Park on October 21, 2013© Getty Images

It seemed that the 2012-13 season was a breakthrough one for Matthew Lowton, who made the Aston Villa right-back berth his own - so much so that there was even talk of a call-up to the senior England squad for the former Sheffield United player. However, last term, injuries and a loss of form meant that the 25-year-old lost his way somewhat.

While Lowton still has a role to play, competition is never a bad thing for any Premier League squad. Ward, on the evidence of his performances for Crystal Palace upon their return to the top flight, would provide just that. A full-back that is capable of carrying out his defensive duties as well as supporting his winger, the 24-year-old would be an asset to any club whose first target is to retain their status.

Also, with Villa having a relatively small squad, versatility is a priceless commodity. Although primarily a defender, Ward is also capable of operating in the centre of midfield if the situation requires it. Palace would likely fight tooth and nail to keep the former Portsmouth player, but there would be no harm in lodging a bid to test the water.

Darren Fletcher, Manchester United

Manchester United's Darren Fletcher in action against Chelsea during their League Cup match on October 31, 2012© Getty Images

Experience is key in the Premier League, particularly in the heart of midfield. The tireless Fabian Delph may have impressed on occasions last season, but he often looked overworked and in need of aid. In years gone by Lambert may have opted for a youthful recruit, but having struggled for the previous two campaigns, a mature midfielder is required.

With five Premier League titles under his belt, they don't come much more experienced that Fletcher. At the age of 30, the Scot still has a number of years ahead of him. Although not a regular scorer of goals from midfield, Fletcher reads the game well and is comfortable in possession. He is also a battler - highlighted by his return to football despite suffering from a chronic inflammatory bowel condition.

He could also be available, with Louis van Gaal expected to overhaul the squad at Manchester United upon his arrival from the World Cup. The Red Devils have already spent big on Ander Herrera and with at least one further midfielder expected to sign on, Fletcher might be deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford.

Wilfried Zaha, Manchester United

Manchester United's Wilfried Zaha controls the ball against Kitchee during their football friendly match at Hong Kong stadium on July 29, 2013© Getty Images

For all the negatives, few teams counter-attacked more effectively than Villa, who utilised the pace of Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor to perfection against some of the division's best teams last year. Wide players, though, have a tendency to be inconsistent, meaning that alternatives from the bench are a must.

His career may have stalled at Man United over the previous 12 months, but England international Zaha is still highly rated. He may be unpredictable, but the 21-year-old has the skill and speed to leave an opposing full-back trailing in his wake. Also, Zaha showed during his time with Palace, albeit in the Championship, that he has an eye for goal.

It would seem unlikely that Zaha would be within Villa's price range, but a loan move may not be out of the question. A lot will depend upon the impression that the winger makes on Van Gaal during the first few weeks of pre-season.

Tottenham Hotspur interim manager Tim Sherwood acknowledges his sides fans following the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa at White Hart Lane on May 11, 2014
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