How Aston Villa Improve in the 2021/22 Season
By Liam Reidy
The 2021/22 season will certainly be a season of opportunity for Aston Villa. With the likes of Spurs, Arsenal and Everton firmly in a state of transition, Villa are very much building up nicely on an upward curve with a young and talented team. Here’s five ways in which Villa will be even better next season…
1.Have Jack Grealish fit for the whole season
The stats don’t lie. Villa only won three of the 12 games without their captain during that stretch from February to May and measured up 15th in the form table for that period. Villa were leading a legitimate European charge before his injury, and they certainly would have had a real chance of doing so, when you consider that we only finished seven points off the final European spot in 7th. With Jack in for those 12 games, it would only have taken a couple more wins to have a proper shout.
We all know his quality. His ability to drive forward with the ball and have defences constantly retreating towards their own goal is unlike anyone else in the Villa squad, and one of a rare breed in the entire Premier League. Villa fans know how special and unique a talent he is. If stays fit, adds a little more killer instinct and the introduction of the likes of Emiliano Buendía lift his game further, you’d have to feel confident that Europe is within reach for 2021/22.
2. Ambitious owners not afraid to spend
The transfer window has only been opened for two days, yet Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens have already made a huge statement in the transfer market. The club-record Emiliano Buendía signing is just about as exciting a signing as you can ask for, but you just know it won’t be the last this summer. The James Ward-Prowse link seems to be legitimate, and it shows just how far Villa have come in a short space of time.
Ever since taking over, NSWE haven’t held back in investing into the playing squad, or making statements by holding onto big names. The most convincing argument they can make to Jack Grealish to keep him around is to build a quality team around him. The starting XI now looks pretty solid, bar another central midfielder, and Ward-Prowse could be the one to fill that gap. Add some quality back-ups at left-back and centre-forward especially, and this squad would be looking as strong as we’ve seen since the Martin O’Neill days.
3. Consistent squad and top flight experience
Despite the owners’ spending intentions, you can’t imagine a huge number of first team players will come through the door this summer. You can never stand still at this level of course, and Villa won’t, but they have finally got a strong core to the team, with the back four and goalkeeper set, along with centre-forward and most of the midfield. The squad have one or two years of Premier League experience at least, and new-boy Buendia has one too. That has laid the foundations to progress at this level and move forward.
You have to remember that that was Emi Martinez’s first full season in the top flight, despite how commanding he was. Ollie Watkins, who had his lean patches this season, now has a year of playing top defences under his belt and has that never-give-up attitude that guarantees goals. Matt Targett had an injury-free season and I would argue was the top left-back in the league this season, behind only Luke Shaw. Ezri Konsa came on leaps and bounds, showing aggressiveness and leadership qualities that have put him on the way to cult hero status. Just imagine what a few class signings will add to an already growing team.
4. Top quality youngsters with key experience
The Villa youngsters have just had a brilliant season. Not only did they win the FA Youth Cup, but they were also thrust into the limelight in January when the Covid outbreak caused them to be forced to face Liverpool’s first team. Louie Barry’s breakaway goal to level the scores before halftime was probably my favourite moment of the whole season. The unbridled joy on his face when he wheeled away after scoring was what football was all about. And what an experience that was for each player. How many teenagers can say they’ve played competitively against Mo Salah and Sadio Mane?
But Barry is just one of a number of top talents coming through. None more so than Carney Chukwuemeka, who, along with Jaden Philogene-Bidace, was involved in the first team during the closing fixtures. 17-year-old Chukwuemeka plays with a real maturity and has an effortlessness about his play, a sign of a naturally gifted player. Dean Smith has already confirmed that Carney and Jaden will be involved in the first team again next season, adding a youthful spark and exuberance to the squad.
5. Fans will be back
Yes! Fans will almost definitely be back for the new season. I can already imagine what that first game back with a full crowd will be like, and I can almost taste the chips and curry sauce. It will be 2019 Everton at home levels of electricity, which has to be one of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced at Villa Park. Emi Martinez, Matty Cash, Ollie Watkins and last year’s other new signings are yet to experience a full Villa Park.
Just think of how it would have been to have been in the stands for the Liverpool 7-2 demolition or the last minute equaliser against West Brom. Now think how we could have boosted the team during the Grealish-less spell, and given them an extra boost on those away days. It is the same for every team but few get an atmosphere like Villa Park does.
Follow Liam on Twitter here – @yLiam96