It's been a whirlwind start to the summer for Aston Villa, but not in the way many have come to expect.
For the first time in four seasons, the club aren't spending an absurd amount of money changing both manager and staff. Overhauling the likes of Gerard Houllier and Alex McLeish cost the club millions, ultimately resulting in a smaller summer transfer budget.
It's a settled preseason this time, and that's outlined by the fact that Paul Lambert has already signed an astonishing six players.
Not yet July, Villa are set to welcome Aleksandar Tonev, Jores Okore, Leandro Bacuna, Nicklas Helenius, Antonio Luna and Jed Steer to the club for the very first day of preseason training—a far cry from the late business and bargain buys the Villa faithful have grown accustomed to.
Coming off the back of the 2012-13 season, in which Villa finished 15th—five points above relegated Wigan Athletic—improvements were clearly necessary.
And despite ending the season in stunning form, the faults were clear: Left-back and centre-back needed reinforcing; the midfield wasn't complete; question marks hung over the wingers, strikers and goalkeepers.
Lambert has fixed every problem in the squad in what could turn out to be record speed, giving the club much-needed depth in every area:
"Having genuine competition for places is really healthy and, in fact, vital for any club that aspires to bigger and better things," he told Aston Villa's official site.
"It's good that those guys [the new signings] will be able to settle in straight away and hit the ground running, that should help."
A flurry of late deals last summer had Villa off to a poor start last season and the club were nearly relegated because of it. Lambert knows to avoid that now, and there's only one stone that's been left unturned.
The all-important question: What does Christian Benteke's future hold?
The Mirror's Midlands correspondent James Nursey shed some light on the situation on Wednesday, laying out the details in a clear and concise manner.
Villa are confident Benteke will sign a new, improved, double-your-money deal. Furthermore, there have been no bids, and his asking price is between £25-30 million. The club, understandably, are relaxed about him staying.
But the longer it goes on, the more fans will worry. Villa will hope his agent, Eris Kismet, will halt his attempts to engineer a move sooner rather than later.
A word from Benteke ensuring his stay for another season will allow the plans to hit full speed. A replenished team full of young talent, ready to take on the Premier League with a talismanic striker at the heart of everything.
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