By Sean Colfer
Matt Lowton believes that by sticking to his guns Villa manager Paul Lambert will have his team primed and ready for the opening day assignment against the Gunners at the Emirates and the Barclays Premier League campaign to follow, having agreed a new four-year deal to 2017.
Lowton is the sixth player to agree a new contract this season, following fellow defenders Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker, midfielder Ashley Westwood, striker Andi Weimann and goalkeeper Brad Guzan in committing his future to the Club.
As well as those new deals, Villa have signed six new players in defenders Jores Okore and Antonio Luna, midfielders Leandro Bacuna and Aleksander Tonev, striker Nicklas Helenius and goalkeeper Jed Steer.
"It is a very exciting time for the Club," said Lowton.
"We went through some difficult periods last season but we finished strongly and had won a lot of people over by the end of the season. The fans were with us all the way though and they made themselves heard home and away, superbly well and that's something that really helps the team and is appreciated greatly by all the lads. Everyone could see what the gaffer was working towards and over the second half of the season it showed.
"With the new signings this season as well as some players signing new contracts, the likes of me and Ashley, Andi, Brad, Ciaran and Nathan, it shows the Club is moving forward and it's really exciting to be a part of that.
"We all feel part of something here and we feel strongly that we're building towards something very exciting and positive for the Club. You could see it right from the start of last season when I signed that the Club was going to go with what the gaffer wanted. He wanted to put his plans in place and he stuck by his guns all season.
"It turned out to be the right decision and he's continued that this season, signing players straight away and getting us into the pre-season. Everyone's playing together in the matches and everything is coming together nicely.
"It's important that we work towards that first game at Arsenal, that's really what all the preparation is about right now, being ready for the start of a long campaign. We know Arsenal will be a tough game, as it was last year, but with the new signings and the way we played at the end of last season I know we can go down there and give a good account of ourselves."
Having signed from League One Sheffield United, Lowton started every Premier League game last season until a thigh injury forced him off against Norwich in May.
His development and consistency over the course of last season led England manager Roy Hodgson to identify him, along with teammate Ashley Westwood, as having "caught the eye".
Hard-working Lowton is eager to continue to improve.
He credits manager Paul Lambert and his assistant Ian Culverhouse with "moving my game on" but has insisted he will not be "looking to rest on my laurels now" despite the reward of a new deal.
"My game is still developing massively," he added. "Every game you learn something new and with Ian and the gaffer there they're always helping you out, teaching you something new and giving you little pointers. The best way to learn is to play against the best players and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to keep moving my game on.
"Last year was amazing for me. I don't think there's enough time in the day to tell you what I've learned, both from playing in games against the best players in the world and from Ian and the gaffer in meetings. We watch videos of where we went wrong and what we did right and you do pick up a lot of things.
"To do what I did last season surprised me a bit to be honest but I took every game as it came and I did well enough to keep my place for the next game. That's what I'm looking to do next season.
"I can't be looking to rest on my laurels now after one season in the Premier League, I've got to push on and make sure I make that starting XI for the first game and hopefully continue that for the rest of the season.
"When I came here last year, growing up in England obviously you know the size of this club, it's a massive club. You could see that just from the away games, the amount of away fans we took was phenomenal.
"Playing at Villa Park is fantastic as well. To hear fans like ours shouting your name at a stadium like Villa Park is quite surreal at times when you think of the players they've had in the past here. For me to be doing what they were doing and getting my name shouted and sung on the terraces is brilliant for me and for my family."
Lowton, though, is keen to emphasise that the hard work the team put in last season to develop and improve must continue this season.
"We've all worked hard to get here but now we're here we've got to keep working and keep pushing on. We came through last season and we have to continue on that upward curve into next season.
"Last season was tough at times, of course, but as I said earlier you only learn from your mistakes and things like that after you watch videos of where you went wrong. I think the season we had last season can only help everybody who went through that.
"Despite it being tough in some games, it was a fantastic experience for us young lads, to play against the best players in the world and the best teams. Now we've learned a bit more we can put that into practice on the training field and on Saturdays in the games."
The stand out moment of Lowton's season was his spectacular 35-yard volley in the game against Stoke to help the team to a vital 3-1 victory, a goal described by manager Paul Lambert as "unbelievable".
"That goal was up there with the best moments of my life. I would have taken a tap-in from two yards if it got us the three points but the way it happened was just fantastic.
"The main thing was that the team came out of that vital game with three points and picked up endless amounts of momentum going into the next few games. We kept it up and took it into the next few games, especially the Sunderland game which stands out as well.
"Everyone was working hard all season and from the experiences of the games and the videos we watched, I think everything started to come together at the end of the season. We've got to make sure we start this season how we ended last season."
Lowton appeared in 37 Premier League games last season, as well as six Capital One Cup games and a game in the FA Cup.
He scored two memorable goals - a left-footed drive in the home game against Swansea in September and his 'Goal of the Season' at the Britannia Stadium in April.
Lowton is a product of Sheffield United's Academy and made his Blades debut in March 2010, the first of 89 appearances for the Bramall Lane club.
He had gained experience at Sheffield FC and Ferencvaros prior to making his league debut.
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