Having gained entry to the Premier League through the Championship play-off system last season, everyone connected to Aston Villa was aware of just how tough a return to the top division of English football would be. Followers of the club have an adventure ahead this season but were careful not to get too carried away when making their predictions back in the summer.
Maintaining their place in the Premier League was the number one priority, manager Dean Smith tasked with steering his side clear of the bottom three relegation places. In the thick of a hectic and crucial festive period, it is a case of so far so good for the Villans, but there’s still much work to be done if the club is to battle against the drop.
Grealish an outsider for young player of the year
Jack is expected to bounce back and maybe feeling the effects of the winter schedule. Those in the know rate the youngster highly and Betfair betting service has him as an outsider for winning young player of the year. That’s sure to attract attention from the value hunters out there.
Staying with betting, and Aston Villa are third favourites to be relegated. This tells us things won’t get too much better between now and the end of the season. Traders expect Norwich, Watford and Villa to go down, although the likes of Southampton and West Ham can’t be written off.
Villa flirting with relegation
After 17 games played, Aston Villa show stats of four wins and three draws and no less than 10 defeats. The 15 points on the board have them down in 17th position, one place above the danger area and level on points with Southampton in 18th. Just six points separate second-bottom Norwich and Everton in 16th. We are gearing up for another bitter dog fight at the wrong end of the league.
Villa manager Smith would have already submitted his 2020 player transfer wish list, advising the board of men he’d like to bring in when the winter transfer window opens in January. Certain areas of the field require immediate attention, including a backline that has already conceded 30 goals. Bringing the right players in at the right price is vital for Aston Villa over the course of the next few weeks but so too is holding on to the talent already at the club.
Young attacking midfielder Jack Grealish has been the standout performer for the Birmingham club so far, a shining light in what has been a difficult opening half of the Premier League return. Not only is he the most exciting talent to come out of Villa Park in years, but he is also seen as the future of the club. Holding on to their prized asset will be a statement of intent from the club’s owners, losing him to a league rival viewed as a lack of ambition. How will the board play this one? Certain Villa insiders have already made it clear that keeping him is still a priority.
This is, despite, growing interest from around Europe. If the gossip columns of famous red top tabloids are to be believed, Grealish is wanted by Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is said to be a real admirer of the 24-year-old from Birmingham and his talents, style of play and ambition would prove to be a great fit for the red devils’ transfer strategy. The club wants to pull in the best young talent, building a team for the future. Grealish would certainly fit the bill.
Jack may be catching the eye of admirers and making headlines in British sport, but he’s not yet the finished article. Would the youngster be keen to prove himself at the likes of Old Trafford or, perhaps, stay at Villa Park and continue his development? Only the player and his representatives would know the answer to that, but his intentions will become clear in January. Until a new deal is signed, either at Aston Villa or elsewhere, newspapers and football sites are entitled to gossip.
One game that proved Grealish is still some way off being the finished article was Aston Villa’s 2-0 defeat away to Sheffield United on Saturday 14 December. A match the visitors believed they could win, it was The Blades who secured the bragging rights thanks to a double from Scotsman John Fleck, both coming in the second half. Grealish played his part in what was a disappointing day for Villa, missing a penalty, having four shots at goal and failing to hit the target once. He didn’t make an impact in the middle of the park that day either, ending with just 44 touches of the ball – Stability is a much-needed trait going forward for both the player and the club.