So much has changed at Villa Park in the last few months that Aston Villa has started to feel like a different football club. A new owner, manager, coaching staff and board are almost all in place and, with the best new kit in recent memory and a new league to play in, the tortuous Aston Villa of old can be forgotten.
Or can it? Despite all these changes, there is one thing that seems stale and familiar: the Aston Villa playing staff. I know there are still a few weeks until the start of the season, and even longer until the transfer window closes, but seeing the same old names and faces that let us down so badly last year is a little disheartening.
Our 0-8 win against lacklustre opposition in Austria was an encouraging start to pre-season, although we still saw the likes of Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Scott Sinclair and Gabby Agbonlahor take to the field.
I respect Di Matteo giving everyone a clean slate at the start of the season but, with a tough Championship season ahead, some of these poisonous characters just don’t deserve one. It was a real shame that none of the development players made the trip instead. I’m sure I’m not alone in preferring to see the likes of Toner, Mason, Green and Lyden lining up rather than the aforementioned disappointments.
Roberto Di Matteo has stated that he is now turning his attention to trimming the squad, so time will tell whether we’ll get the new look squad we so desperately need by August 7th.
Who should stay and who should go?
Apart from those already mentioned, there are plenty of others I’d happily see that back of. In fact it’s much easier to list who I’d be gutted to see us let go.
Jack Grealish deserves a full season playing for Aston Villa and his attitude this summer has looked much improved.
Jordan Amavi escaped the tarnish brought about by last season’s dire performances and genuinely looks a proper prospect.
Other than those two, the three new signings and the likes of Gardner and Baker who were out on loan last season, I wouldn’t shed a tear if anyone else left.
The expensive French imports showed moments of class, but will Gana, Veretout and Ayew really want to stick around and fight like lions in the Championship? If they do, I’ll welcome them into the first team with open arms. We need players prepared to give their all for forty-six games.
The likes of Guzan, Kozák and Hutton could all ‘do a job’ in this new league. However, to really move on from the nightmare of the last few years a genuinely fresh start is needed and these men all played their part in seeing us drop a league.
My favourite whipping boy of the squad was Leandro Bacuna. At times last season he barely looked like a League 2 player, let alone someone who could hold his own in the Premier League or play in the Champions League. I would not only question Di Matteo’s managerial ability if Bacuna plays a part next season but I’d question his sanity too.
The bottom line is that Di Matteo needs to get rid of as many players as he can (with a few exceptions): if Aston Villa Football Club is really going to change things need to be very different on the pitch as well as off it.