It’s just a few days until the big kick off and the internet has been flooding with portents of doom for Aston Villa in recent weeks after consecutive campaigns on the brink. The consensus with many is the with the ‘spine’ of Villa’s team departing (Vlaar, Delph, Benteke) that the side are considerably weaker and therefore are in big trouble.
Here’s our writer Finn Mongley tries to convince both MOMS and you, with an explanation as to why that may not be the case and why Aston Villa may actually be in better shape than this time last year.
A Case for the Defence
It could be argued that Villa’s defensive unit has improved ahead of the new season with tweaks in just the right places. Ron Vlaar has left and that’s a good thing. Vlaar never quite reached the levels of previous beloved centre-backs at the club and he spent far too much time injured. His most recent injury suggests we may have dodged a bullet.
Vlaar is also a player who’s best form in recent times has been for his country and not his club.
In his place, Aston Villa have snapped up Premier League winner Micah Richards. Richards is younger than Vlaar and has shown in the past that he is a very talented Premier League player. Most Villa fans see Richards as an upgrade. With Richards beside a fit Clark (fully fit and boosted by a new contract) and/or Okore, the centre-back position doesn’t look bad. Nathan Baker will be a decent albeit uninspiring deputy.
Another definite upgrade is the arrival of Jordan Amavi from Nice. Early signs suggest that Amavi may finally be the man to solve Villa’s long standing left-back problem.
During pre season the French U-21 international has had the audacity to do something that no Villa left back has done in some time, put in some decent crosses. He has bags of potential and is more than capable both at the back and pushing forward.
Aston Villa’s back four constantly changed last year due to bad luck in the injury department, hopefully that won’t be the case this year. At right-back Alan Hutton had a decent spell before injury and Bacuna definitely has something to offer although may be better suited to playing further forward. After the arrival Jose Angel Crespo, Villa will at least have better defensive flexibility this year, if not a huge upgrade in quality (except for Amavi).
With the arrival of Idrissa Gueye and Jordan Veretout, the return of Gary Gardner, and with the improving Ashley Westwood and Carlos Sanchez already here, there are more options and depth in the squad at Tim Sherwood’s disposal this time around. Sanchez has a season under his belt and can hopefully replicate his form for Colombia now that he is used to the pace of the league. Academy product Gary Gardner may have one last chance to prove his ability.
Obviously there’s no sure way of knowing if new boys Gueye and Veretout can fill in for Delph or Cleverly but both ex-Villans were largely disappointing last year despite good late season form. Delph contributed only three goals and five assists in his six years at the club and that’s hardly irreplaceable. As much as we all rated Delph, he was probably not as good as we often made him out to be and Gueye looks to have similar energy and physique to the departed snake.
Veretout is a particularly exciting signing. The 22-year-old possesses both quality and potential to improve. In Ligue 1 last season the young Frenchman provided seven goals and six assists as well as boasting the third highest key passes per game, a more impressive tally than Cleverly and Delph in 2014/15.
Following this addition of new young and ambitious midfielders our options aren’t so limited anymore, with potentially set of vibrant attacking midfielders/wingers.
Jack Grealish will start this season a more experienced player with less pressure on him due to Scott Sinclair having a full preseason to get match fit. Sinclair is looking sharp and scoring goals ahead of the new campaign.
The return to favour of Carles Gil is one of the best developments of the preseason for Aston Villa. Gil was one of the only positives during Paul Lambert’s tenure and has clearly impressed Sherwood. Both Sinclair and Gil were at the club last year but find themselves in a better position to contribute under Sherwood this season.
There are certainly more options in the attacking areas than last year, which was all about Benteke. In Rudy Gestede Villa have signed a powerful striker who knows how to score and dominates aerially.
Libor Kozak is back from injury, and scoring in pre season (although reports suggest he may end up on loan). New signing Jordan Ayew offers something different to the others. Gabriel Agbonlahor will fill out the squad as a useful impact player and Villa may further add to attacking options before the season starts.
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