To say that off the pitch Aston Villa’s pre-season has been one of turmoil would be something of an understatement. The extent of the horrific nature of Villa’s financial predicament even surpassed what the most ardent doomsday merchant could have predicted.
Luckily, with merely two weeks to go to the kick-off of the new season, new majority owners swooped in to save the club. Although they will be initially tested by the shackles of FFP that Villa have to contend with, at least the club can move forward again.
Meanwhile, what of the actual team? Steve Bruce lives on and will now have to work with a squad that has lost several key players from last season. Bar goalkeeper Andre Moreira (who hasn’t officially signed yet), there hasn’t been any additions, but still he potentially has a squad to be up there challenging.
Five reasons to be cheerful after pre-season…
1.Still Claret and Blue
Jack Grealish is still wearing an Aston Villa shirt. At one point, judging by most media reporting and some fan reaction, it seemed that MOMS was the only one who hadn’t given up on keeping him or at least making a fight of it.
If Spurs were interested, they were always going to lowball for the player, meaning it would be decided late on in the window. Also, Grealish wouldn’t exactly be improving the Spur’s first XI at this point in time, so he’s hardly a priority for them.
This bought Villa time and in that time, new investors came in to strengthen Villa’s resolve. Steve Bruce said today after the 2-1 Dresden friendly win, that the club will resist any efforts to buy Grealish.
At the very least, Villa now don’t have their pants around our ankles, if any vultures do swoop in.
The same goes for James Chester, who’s always indicted he wants to stay at Villa. If a Premier League club had come in, then he may have left, but Stoke City? On decent wages, there is no point for the player to ply his trade elsewhere in the Championship. If the Potters want him, they’ll have to pay over £10m, but I don’t see them doing that.
2. Shooting Boots
Sitting behind the goal at the Bescot stadium watching Villa vs West Ham in mid-week, MOMS began to feel dread about the prospect of next season, on the evidence of Villa’s lack of attacking intent against the Hammers. The late substitutes though added more pace to Villa’s team, and after going close with one rocket, Andre Green dispatched Villa’s consolidation goal with aplomb.
Against Dynamo Dresden, a few days later, he scored a brace against the Germans, including his first goal (see below), that was even more clinical than his strike against West Ham.
— My Old Man Said (@oldmansaid) July 28, 2018
In previous seasons, Green’s finishing hasn’t been as polished as it could have been and he should have probably had more goals to his name. Obviously, last season, Green was hampered by injury, but the last week of pre-season has shown that Villa may now have more of a decisive and direct string to their attacking bow, which was badly needed.
With Villa’s current striker injury problems Green may even start the season as a makeshift striker.
3. Pace Injection
If there’s one thing that Villa have lacked since their time in the Championship, it’s legitimate pace in the team. With Bruce’s penchant for getting in older and more experienced players, a deficiency of pace has become increasingly apparent.
In preseason though, Andre Green and Ritchie de Laet have certainly given Villa a bit more zip, as has the emergence of Harvey Knibbs up front.
It will be interesting to see if Bruce has serious plans for de Laet, after loaning him out last season.
The question of Green vs Adomah on the left is certainly an interesting one. Will Bruce revert Adomah back to the right side?
Obviously, if Bruce decides to go with three at the back, it may have a huge bearing on who makes the first XI. Traditionally, the 3-5-2 has been implemented to allow for the free No.10 role, ala Jack Grealish. If Grealish goes, will Bruce change his mind on the formation?
If not, could Green play left wing-back ala Ashley Young for England? With de Laet in the same position on the right flank. Having such pacy wing-backs would be a big plus for such a system, that under Bruce has tended to revert to the defensive.
However, if Green has got his eye for goal in, he maybe currently best served as a out-and-out winger.
4. New Pitch
Villa’s pitch last season was cutting up badly as it was over a season past it’s sell-by-date. It had been scheduled to be replaced last season until Xia overruled ex-Villa CEO Keith Wyness and postponed it for another season.
In the second half of last season, the Villa manager had mentioned the issues with the pitch and there had been player complaints. Hopefully now, the new pitch will help Villa attacking talent, especially the likes of Grealish, Green and Kodjia.
5. New Keeper
After Jed Steer’s ‘whoops’ moment that gifted Dynamo Dresden the opener, it’s good to see that Villa are close to addressing the goalkeeper situation by drafting in Atlético Madrid keeper, Andre Moreira. The 6’4, 22-year-old Portuguese keeper was present in Dresden, but the loan signing hasn’t been completed yet.
It’s obviously a shame that Moreira hasn’t had a chance to play in a full pre-season friendly, but if Villa are thinking about him as their new No.1, then maybe they’ll fix up a behind close doors friendly next week?
Also, there are indications that Villa may look to bring in further loans before the window closes, with their striker department looking light, especially with the current injury situation.