With a total spend of over £130 million last summer, the off-season of 2019 saw the arrival of twelve new faces at Bodymoor Heath.
In a season which saw Villa fighting relegation for the best part of 11 months, the once fresh-looking, diverse squad of players has been heavily scrutinized by the press, the pundits, but most importantly, by the claret and blue faithful.
Despite the squad performing collectively as one of the worst in the division, several players regularly catch the eye of the B6 collective – the likes of Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings for example.
However, with this comes a cluster of players who, opposingly, fail to draw the attention of many, rather slipping through the watchful eyes of spectators.
The underappreciated, whose actions on the field are rarely documented by the media or press.
In this article, we reflect on who these players are for Aston Villa, and what makes them such an integral cog in Dean’s machine.
The 22-year-old center-back, whose performances are often overshadowed by the colossus of Tyrone Mings who he plays besides, has enjoyed 31 starts in the league and cups this season – scoring two goals (plus the winner against Watford?)
Considering this was Konsa’s debut campaign for the Villans, his impact on the team is evidently substantial.
Of the nine league games that Villa won this season, Konsa started six of them, whilst also playing the final 15 minutes of the Norwich City thrashing in October – his Premier League debut.
As well as this, the League Cup run that saw Villa advance to Wembley was empowered by Konsa, who played 90 minutes in every game but the final – a game which Villa lost.
On the field of play, Konsa has successfully completed more tackles than Tyrone Mings, despite playing eight games fewer.
In the defensive company, Konsa has a higher pass completion rate than both Mings and fellow CB compatriot Kortney Hause, a statistic only bettered by Bjorn Engels.
Konsa has made the second highest number of blocks out of Villa’s entire back line, a figure higher than that of Virgil van Dijk and Harry Maguire!
With a host of international trophies already achieved as part of the England youth set-up, (the U20 FIFA World Cup along with the Toulon Tournament), Konsa is emerging as one of the country’s best young defenders.
Combined with his 22 years of age, England youth career, and development into one of Villa’s stalwart performers, Konsa is certainly a Villa player that rarely gets the plaudits he deserves.
Another defender, this time in the shape of marauding full-back, Matt Targett.
Making 33 appearances in all competitions for Villa this season, the left-back has scored and assisted two of each.
Operating on the left flank, Targett has linked up well with Jack Grealish – usually on the overlap, or when exchanging give-and-go type passes.
A particular area of strength that many rarely pickup on is the adept aerial ability of the 24-year-old.
Whilst not the best in Villa’s own defensive ranks, Targett has won more aerial battles than many high-profile players in his position. These include Luke Shaw, Marcus Alonso, and title winning Andrew Robertson.
As well as this, Targett has the most interceptions out of the entire villa squad – some achievement considering that he hasn’t even been included in the match-day squad 8 times this season.
As previously mentioned, Targett often utilizes his pace and is commonly seen attacking the opposition penalty area.
When crossing the ball, Targett has a higher accuracy percentage than El Ghazi, Trézéguet, and Grealish. A clear indication that Targett is a full-back who is comfortable in both boxes.
Another young player with plenty of potential, there’s a chance Matt Targett could be a mainstay in the Villa team for a number of years.
Ahmed El Mohamady
Sticking with the theme of defenders, we move to a bit of a cult hero at Villa Park.
The Egyptian right-back recently celebrated three years a villan and whilst he’s been deployed far less than in recent seasons, the former Hull City man has still managed to make his mark with involvements in some crucial moments this season.
Whether it is his (now iconic) celebration against Liverpool in the League Cup, or the steely determination he shows throughout matches, there’s something about Elmo that Villa fans across the globe just love.
As much as he may be one of the best crossers of the ball in the squad, his inch perfect deliveries are not what impress me the most.
Rather his true professionalism, sheer grit, and simple capability to defend his goal.
Playing one short of a century of games for Villa in three years shows that he is one of the most consistent players in the squad. Someone who can be relied upon and trusted to get a job done.
Not only do fans warm to him, Managers seem to love him too. Steve Bruce has signed the Egyptian three times over last ten years.
As documented by his Geordie super-fan, “I can count on the fingers of one hand how many days training he has missed”.
A leader on and off the field, (long serving captain of Egypt and skippering Villa on many occasions), at 32 years old, El Mohamady sets an example for others to follow.