With the World Cup up and running, fans’ focus on matters concerning Villa has faded. From an outsider’s point of view, we are still in the same position we were in when the World Cup started as there has been no progress regarding a takeover.
While we as fans may not be privy to ‘real’ insider knowledge, one thing is for certain: Aston Villa Football Club is still for sale.
With last season being one to forget, it is time to look forward and try and find reasons for optimism for next season.
Paul Lambert is still our manager, Randy Lerner is still our chairman, we have signed two experienced players for free and we’ve let Marc Albrighton go.
First of all, let’s look at the current squad. We’ve finally signed an attacking midfield player who could bring invention and creativity to our style of play, depending on how fit Joe Cole can stay during the season.
At present, we still have our more important players still at the club. I consider these players to be Brad Guzan, Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph, Gabby Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke. I’m hopeful that by the end of the transfer window we will still have these players in our team as they are very valuable to us.
Ron Vlaar is having a great run with Holland at the moment and hopefully fans who don’t particularly rate Vlaar and who criticised him during the season are seeing for themselves what he is able to achieve with more solid defenders near him.
With that in mind, I expect Jores Okore to partner Vlaar in defence in the upcoming season and my expectations of these two are very high because I know that they could form a solid partnership for Villa if things go according to plan. I’m not saying that we’ll have the best defence in the Premier League but rather a solid one with players who should be able to hold their own against formidable attackers in the Premiership.
While the centre of defence looks promising, there is a dilemma concerning our full backs. On the left-hand side, we have Antonio Luna, who played a handful of games last season before disappearing. After a storming debut against Arsenal, in which he also scored, things seemed to go downhill for the former Seville left back. He didn’t feature at all in the last few months of the season, partly due to injury, but it did seem at one point that he was being left out.
Joe Bennett and Matt Lowton are two players who made the step up from lower league football. Lambert signed both players and only Lowton has been decent since they’ve been with Villa. Lowton had a great first season at the club, putting in good performances both defensively and in attack. His goal against Stoke and his performance against Sunderland have been the highlights of his Villa career so far but last season was a different story: with some rumours of unrest in his personal life and a supposed falling out with Lambert, his performances last season were simply poor. He seemed to be a shadow of his former self, which was disappointing because many people, including myself, had tipped him to become a great asset to the team. We thought Lambert had made a terrific signing. Instead, Lambert played the versatile Leoandro Bacuna in the right back position for most of the season, with mixed results, while Lowton was benched. When he eventually make the starting line up, Lowton was poor.
I would expect Paul Lambert to sort out the situation regarding our full backs before the start of the season. If not, we could see teams targeting our full backs during games and, as a result, the Villans losing matches.
With Christian Benteke suffering a bad injury and expected to be out of action until October, we’ll need to rely on Gabby Agbonlahor, Andi Weimann, Libor Kozak (who is on the comeback trail from a broken leg) and maybe even Darren Bent to score goals. Last season, we were extremely unlucky with injuries to our strikers and hopefully this time round we have better luck.
On paper, we haven’t got a bad strike force at all. In fact, it’s probably the area in which we are strongest.
Right now, Benteke is our main threat. From what I saw of Libor Kozak before he got injured, he knew where the goal was. If he recovers in time from his broken leg, we’ll need him to spearhead the attack at the start of the season.
Agbonlahor and Weimann need to step up, as their goal tallies are extremely poor. I understand that they’re playing out wide but I’ve seen them miss shocking chances which should be their bread and butter. They must play better.
We also have the forgotten man Nicklas Helenius, whose exclusion from the squad left fans very confused. Hopefully, he will have a part to play soon if he stays with Villa.
So, what are my expectations for next season?
My realistic expectations are that the Villans:
- become harder to beat;
- gain at least eleven clean sheets (compared to nine clean sheets last season);
- score more than thirty-nine goals in the Premier League, which is not good enough at this level;
- get to the quarter finals of either the FA Cup or the League Cup;
- Win more at home as our results at home were extremely poor last season.
Those are my current expectations for the coming season. It’s hard to be more definitive, as there are many factors which could change between now and August, altering my expectations.
What are your expectations for the season ahead? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.