Aston Villa director Johan Lange back hoping for a longer stay
Johan Lange has taken his second job in West Midlands football aiming to make a far bigger impression than first time around.
Those who met Lange during his brief stint as Wolves assistant boss remember an approachable, ambitious yet largely quiet coach who never really got a chance to make his mark before he and Stale Solbakken were dismissed in January, 2013.
Seven years on, he is back and tasked with helping guide Villa toward European football’s elite.
Lange is the club’s fourth sporting director since Hendrik Almstadt became the first in 2015 and he will be aiming to do rather better than his predecessors, all of whom lasted less than two years in the post.
Almstadt was gone inside 12 months having made a bigger impact on food supplies in the Bodymoor Heath canteen than Villa’s transfer policy.
Steve Round arrived in September 2016 to find his strategy compromised by the fact Tony Xia had already spent the vast majority of whatever money he actually had.
Jesus Garcia Pitarch, who left Villa 24 hours after Premier League status was secured last weekend, can comfortably claim to have been the most successful of the trio, even if there was scrutiny over some of his signings.
The vast majority of clubs in the Premier League and Championship now employ a sporting or technical director but Villa have never operated with a purely continental structure.
Their model has always been something of a hybrid, with the head coach or manager also having an important say.
Contrary to some belief, Dean Smith and Pitarch had a good working relationship. Instead it was the Spaniard’s communication with chief executive Christian Purslow, the other member of what became known inside Villa Park as the triangle of power, which was rather more fractious.
Lange arrives after six years as technical director at FC Copenhagen, during which the Danish club were able to remain highly competitive while also extracting great value from the transfer market.
That, in essence, was what Villa were attempting last summer and Lange’s appointment would indicate the club’s hierarchy are doubling down on the strategy.
By the same token, one would hope the last year has taught them the importance of pragmatism. Villa’s was a season so nearly derailed by their lack of Premier League experience, something Smith is keen to address in the current window. At the very least, the head coach wants the bulk of the signings to be proven in the English game.
The desire to find value in the market is an admirable plan and could prove an excellent one in the long-term. For now, Villa must be careful not to again forget their short-term needs.