QPR boss Ian Holloway seemed to be on the minds of the manager and players of Huddersfield Town, when they won the Championship play-off final and secured a place in the Premier League. The Terriers’ boss David Wagner gleefully name-checked him in a post-match interview, while celebrating players sang a song calling Holloway out, who had predicted they would get relegated while working as a Sky TV pundit at the start of the season.
Holloway though, as well as predicting Newcastle to win the league and Brighton to finish runners-up, had also predicted Villa would come a lowly 16th. The local Birmingham press mocked him and even the Villa owner Tony Xia attacked him on Twitter labelling him a ‘f**ked pundit’ amongst other things.
That all looks rather embarrassing now, as Villa limped home in 13th place, not far off Holloway’s prediction.
That’s all water under the bridge though, as a new season looms large; one in which Villa will have little excuse if they don’t obtain their promotion goal. So, in terms of preseason expectations this time round, where do Villa stand?
Championship Title Favourites
At the end of last season Steve Bruce started to show the physical and mental effects of what has been one of the most difficult seasons of his managerial career. The Villa jury is currently split over whether he is the man for the job, and it’ll take more than just beating the Blues at Villa Park to forget an underwhelming season.
With that in mind, many will be surprised to hear that a number of bookmakers have installed Aston Villa as the early favourites to win the Championship title next season.
With odds at around the 8/1, Bruce is now likely to come under more pressure from both supporters and the board to get it right on the pitch.
Villa being in pole position with the bookies is understandable, as there are no outstanding candidates like Newcastle and Brighton in the league next season. The Premier League’s relegated trio of Middlesbrough, Hull City and Sunderland are arguably weaker than the teams they replace.
Job Gets Tougher
Given Villa’s spend last season, there’s a certain predictability to the favourite’s tag, but as we saw last season, it offers little guarantee. The fact that only eight teams who have finished bottom of the Premier League, since it was formed in 1992, have bounced back up at the first attempt, illustrates just how difficult it was going to be for Aston Villa in the Championship. We’ve already discussed on MOMS what happens to teams that finish bottom of the Premier League and don’t bonus straight back.
It’s not exactly promising, but surely Villa can only improve next season and learn from the mistakes made on and off the pitch in their previous campaign.
This summer could be one of the most pivotal in Aston Villa’s recent history, with Bruce likely to make key tweaks in the transfer market in order to give the squad a cutting edge and extra element of quality to provide a consistency in results to challenge for promotion.
The manager and Tony Xia have alluded to a more prudent approach to new signings after last season when several incomings and outgoings left the team disjointed, with chief executive Keith Wyness also stating that Aston Villa have to budget to bring in three or four players.
Strengthening in the right areas would certainly encourage the bookmakers to continue to get behind Aston Villa’s chances of returning to the Premier League next season, but even more key is the need for the Villa boss to fuse an actual team together.
The compliancy that Bruce has been there and done it before, having led Birmingham (2002 and 2007) and Hull (2013 and 2016) to the Premier League, needs to be dropped though. There are no guarantees and Bruce will need a good start, backed by on-going consistency to keep fans on side and the team on course.
A start of one win in the first twelve games, simply cannot be repeated if Aston Villa are to stamp their authority as promotion contenders next season, and while fans will be intrigued to see which players come and go from Villa Park in a summer, regardless, there has to be a collective belief that Bruce will get it right in 2017/2018 to back up any odds.
Do you think Villa should be title favourites? Let us know in the comments or on social media.
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