Aston Villa
Aston Villa finished 17th in the Premier League last season and also reached the FA Cup final at WembleyGetty

Aston Villa have confirmed that Hendrik Almstadt is to leave his role in the football department at Arsenal in order to become the first sporting director ever to be employed by the beaten FA Cup finalists.

A statement on the club's official website released on Wednesday (15 July) read: "Aston Villa Football Club is pleased to announce the appointment of Hendrik Almstadt as the club's first ever sporting director.

"The 40-year old German joins the club from Arsenal where he spent the last four years in the football department working with the chief executive and manager in the areas of technical scouting, data analytics, financial budgeting and contract management, the academy and athletic development."

Aston Villa endured an eventful 2014-15 campaign. Paul Lambert was sacked as manager in February following a dismal run of 10 top-flight matches without a victory that saw the Midlands club drop into the relegation zone, before successor Tim Sherwood managed to ensure survival by a three-point margin.

Villa also beat Blackpool, Leicester City, local rivals West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool on their way to a first domestic cup final since 2000 before being comprehensively beaten 4-0 by Arsenal at Wembley.

"I can't wait to start my new role at Aston Villa," Almstadt said after confirmation of his new role. "It is a club with huge potential, a rich history and deep roots in Birmingham, the Midlands, and within English and European football. I look forward to working again with Tom Fox and to establish a close relationship with the manager, Tim Sherwood."

While the specific details of Almstadt's new job description are not disclosed, it is probably safe to presume he will have some input when it comes to Villa's approach in the transfer market.

New faces at Villa

Sherwood has already added four new faces to his squad so far this summer, with former England defender Micah Richards and goalkeeper Mark Bunn joining on free transfers following their respective exits from Manchester City and Norwich.

Scott Sinclair has also joined from City on a permanent basis in the aftermath of his successful loan spell, while earlier in July it was announced that midfielder Idrissa Gueye has arrived from Ligue 1 outfit Lille on a four-year contract for an undisclosed fee.

One pressing issue that will need to be resolved at Villa Park over the coming weeks concerns the future of Christian Benteke.

The Belgian striker appeared notably out of sorts during the final throws of Lambert's tenure but discovered a new lease of life under Sherwood and finished the season very strongly indeed by registering 13 goals in his final 14 games.

Benteke has a release clause of £32.5m ($50.7m) in his current contract, although recent reports from The Mail suggest Manchester United are now monitoring his situation with manager Louis van Gaal eager to secure replacements for Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie, while chief suitors Liverpool are still reluctant to pay such a significant price.

"I think he stays," Sherwood recently told Sky Sports when quizzed on Benteke. "I think Liverpool – I looked the other day – have six or seven strikers at the club. Now I'm not sure how many they actually need. We know Christian is a very good player and we want to keep hold of him.

"If someone matches that buy-out clause, there is nothing we can do about it but until that happens, he is an Aston Villa player and we are all very pleased about that."

While Benteke's future remains uncertain, one player who will remain at Villa Park next season is Fabian Delph.

The 25-year-old, handed the captain's armband by Sherwood earlier in 2015, was believed to be close to signing for Manchester City before surprisingly surprisingly revealing on 11 July that he intended to remain at Villa for the foreseeable future.

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