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Premier League History Tells Us Signing Too Many Unproven Players Is a Risky Game

07/08/2015 16:51 BST | Updated 07/08/2016 10:59 BST

Every fan of every Premier League club expects to see several new arrivals every summer. If done well, buying and loaning new players is the fastest way to see a side improve. However, bringing in too many new faces who are unproven or untested can just as easily end in total disaster.

After finishing 17th and avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth last season, Aston Villa knew they had a lot of work to do this summer to avoid a similar or potentially worse fate in 2015/16. The fact that the club lost by far its two best players in Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke put even more pressure on manager Tim Sherwood and the scouting team to find and bring in individuals who are capable of making a positive impact.

So far, nine new faces have arrived at Villa Park. Of those only Micah Richards has any substantial Premier League experience, while Scott Sinclair has at least some. Three of the new signings are aged 23 or under and have never played outside of France, while Jose Angel Crespo finished bottom of La Liga with Cordoba last season and Rudy Gestede wasn't deemed good enough for Cardiff in the top flight.

Individually, none are bad players. Jordan Veretout and Jordan Amavi are highly talented and were hot prospects in Ligue 1. Rudy Gestede can be a handful for defences on his day and Sinclair at least has pace to burn, which is always an asset. But they are all players a manager would use to strengthen an existing core, not to build one from scratch.

Crucially, Villa are staking their house on too many unproven individuals and recent Premier League shows that is a very risky game, indeed.

Portsmouth and West Ham are two clubs who nearly lost their Premier League status after putting far too much faith in unknown prospects. Pompey had been a top flight side for two seasons ahead of 2005/06 and were ready to push on. There was plenty of faith from the board and nothing short of 12 new players arrived that summer, including the likes of Jhon Viafara, Gregory Vignal, Collins Mbesuma, Brian Priske and Zvonimir Vukic.

Needless to say, the club were in deep trouble before pulling an impossible great escape in the final few weeks of the season, with the failed summer signings already a distant memory.

West Ham's plight wasn't quite as spectacular but a 17th place finish in 2009/10 was still far too close for comfort after Manuel da Costa, Luis Jimenez, Fabio Daprela and Ilan were among those who arrived over the course of the season.

Signing too many unproven players was what helped both Sheffield United and Derby County make immediate returns to the Championship in 2006/07 and 2007/08, respectively - the latter still holds the Premier League record for lowest ever points tally.

Both sides needed to bring in a core of proven top flight experience. Instead, the Blades went after Claude Davis, Christian Nade, Rob Hulse, Colin Kazim-Richards, Matthew Kilgallon and others in the summer. Unsurprisingly they lacked quality and experience, while £2m unknown Jamaican striker Luton Shelton was their big money attempt to save themselves in January.

Derby didn't learn and also brought in Davis at the back, adding Robert Earnshaw, grand scorer of 12 previous Premier League goals. Kenny Miller had only been a success in Scotland and the Championship, while Benny Feilhaber, and Tyrone Mears were also among those who arrived.

In 2013/14, Tottenham significantly underachieved after investing in too many unproven prospects following the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. Spurs were naive in the marketplace. They bought seven players from six different leagues - Vlad Chiriches, Etienne Capoue and Paulinho were completely untested at a high level and their failure also served to exacerbate the flop scale of Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela.

Tottenham had already made similar mistakes a full 10 years earlier that they obviously refused to learn from. They finished as low as 14th in the Premier League in 2003/04 after signing a swathe of unproven players like Helder Postiga, Bobby Zamora and Mbulelo Mabizela.

Liverpool have also done similar in a number of Premier League seasons, while Manchester United came a little unstuck in 2003/04 when unproven quantities Eric Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson and David Bellion all arrived in the same summer as a very young and raw Cristiano Ronaldo - the club finished outside the Premier League's top two for only the second time.

The one positive for Aston Villa this season is that very occasionally it does work. Ronald Koeman's Southampton from just last term are the shining example, while Sven Goran Eriksson had surprising success with several unknown signings at Manchester City in 2007/08.

The disasters still vastly outweigh the success stories, though, suggesting it will be a bumpy ride for Villa this season.

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