After a good win against the Premier League newcomers Bournemouth, it was good to see that our squad is finally taking shape and Aston Villa stand a chance of becoming a decent side in the Premier League once again.
Under Paul Lambert, we seemed to have assembled a squad which looked like it could do a job but the team quite often under-performed and left fans underwhelmed. They did, however, turn up on rare occasions, strangely enough against ‘bigger’ opponents and the Villans produced a few shock results. Nevertheless, it was against teams in and around us in the league that we struggled to produce any points, as well as teams below us in the table.
When Tim Sherwood took over, he knew that he had a big job on his hands and he probably took it on after seeking assurances from Lerner that he would be able to stamp his name on a new team. This summer couldn’t have gone any better for Aston Villa, with Sherwood and his scouts casting their net wide to find young players with budding reputations in the world of football, with France being a hotspot for unearthing new talent.
With the departures of Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph, the future looked bleak for Aston Villa and the fans were hoping that 2015-16 wouldn’t signal the end of the club’s reign in the Premier League. The bookmakers, unsurprisingly, had Aston Villa down as favourites for relegation along with the newly promoted teams. This felt like a kick in the teeth, especially after the Delph transfer saga. It seemed as if we were getting ready for another dogfight given some of the players Sherwood was linked with.
Fast forward a few weeks and the outlook has completely changed. After attracting highly regarded youngsters in Jordan Amavi and Jordan Veretout, Tim Sherwood signalled Aston Villa Football Club’s intention to be highly competitive and he will look to see his players fight on all fronts.
For the first time in a few seasons, I feel that the squad is finally strong in numbers as well as quality. If a player gets injured, we do have someone to step in who can not only do a job but do it well.
We might seem relatively light in central defence but, with Nathan Baker signing a new deal and Jores Okore recovering well from an operation in the summer, competition for places is strong. Also waiting in the wings is the experienced Philippe Senderos, who may not be here long term but is available if needed. The full-back positions are also covered. Amavi looks to be the first choice left back – and rightly so – but we also have Joe Bennett and Kieran Richardson ready to step in should Amavi not be available. Leandro Bacuna will look to seal his spot in the team at right-back yet his strengths lie in going forward rather than defending. Alan Hutton, another right back, is in fact the opposite of Bacuna – good defensively but not the best at going forward – which means we’ll be able to chop and change as and when needed.
Our midfield is the strongest it has been for the last few years. Idrissa Gueye looks to be a brilliant acquisition. Touted as Fabian Delph’s replacement, Gueye looks to be the complete midfielder, a defensively competent player who also has a great engine to get forward to support the attack. His passing is quick and precise yet he looks to go forward at the earliest opportunity. He has taken to the role like a duck to water. Jordan Veretout will need time to adapt but the early signs show that he will be a classy player once he finds his feet in this Villa team.
Ashley Westwood and Carlos Sánchez will be vying to start as the deep midfielder. Westwood would most likely play as a deep lying midfielder to link the play with the two central players in front of him while Sánchez would play as a midfield enforcer to stop the opposition from playing down the middle and to disrupt any attacks from the opposing team’s central midfield.
For creativity, we have two players who look like they will be able to conjure something out of nothing if given the chance. Aston Villa’s own Jack Grealish and the Spaniard Carles Gil will be given opportunities to add a spark to the Villa team when one is needed. Both players are very talented on the ball and, if given time and space, have the potential to hurt the opposition. If both players start in the same team then I feel whoever plays up front will thrive on the service provided by these two dynamic players.
Up front we also have very good strength in numbers. Rudy Gestede will no doubt spearhead the attack after his début heroics when he notched the winner and the powerful forward has the potential to be a nightmare for defenders who come up against him. In one of the supporting roles is Gabby Agbonlahor, who has been played as a wide forward by many of our previous managers. It could be argued that this choice limited his opportunities to score. Scott Sinclair will also provide pace and guile up front, given his ability to create chances for others or to score goals himself. Adding further strength to our squad is Jordan Ayew, a player who is looking to show the world that he is just as good as, if not better than, his brother Andre who recently joined Swansea City. On his day, Jordan Ayew has been described as unplayable but consistency is key. It is hard not to mention Libor Kozák, who returned from injury in pre-season, getting through the pre-season games unscathed and popping up with a few goals. It is not unlikely that we may see Libor Kozák going out on loan to gain some playing time, especially if rumours that Emmanuel Adebayor may yet sign for Aston Villa are to be believed.
It is time to get excited! I feel we could have a really good season if we avoid a relegation crap, which is something Tim Sherwood has promised us will not happen again this season. The Villa squad is stronger than it has been for the last few years – and there are twenty-one days until the transfer window slams shut. I cannot wait to see how the season pans out, as I suspect that there will be a few more surprises in store. UTV!