Season Previews 09/10 – Aston Villa

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aston-villa

Last Season: 6th – A late season collapse after being five minutes from an eight point lead in 4th.

Say hello to your new teammates: Stewart Downing, Fabian Delph, Habib Beye.

Close the door on your way out: Gareth Barry, Zat Knight, Martin Laursen

Predicted star: Ashley Young, who else? With Barry gone and Delph & Downing signed, Young could end up with a more central role behind the strikers as the season goes on. Even if not, his crosses and creativity will be the key to Villa doing well. I have a reluctant hunch Milner will also have a good year.

Needs a big year: Agbonlahor needs to improve the consistency of his goalscoring. Whoever is signed to replace the retired Laursen will need to provide leadership, an aerial threat from set-pieces and general excellent defensive displays. No pressure then.

One to watch: We’ll get to see what the fuss about Delph is about. Barry Bannan has been tipped in a couple of places.

Hopefully worth the money they paid.

Hopefully worth the money they paid.

What they want to happen: A new Laursen and a larger squad oversees further improvement to 5th or even 4th. Birmingham to go straight back down.

Nightmare scenario: A stretched squad cannot repeat the achievements of last season and they slip towards mid-table. Defeat to Birmingham won’t go down too well. Someone buys Ashley Young.

Plan A: Pace and crossing from the flanks onto big John Carew and Agbonlahor.

Plan B, just in case: ‘Direct’ play towards the duo of Carew and Heskey.

Predicted finish: 8th

A lot rests on him.

A lot rests on him.

Why? The suspicion remains that last season was Villa’s best chance to break into the top four and that opportunity is now gone. Man City are stronger, Spurs are more solid (ish) and Everton are tough to beat as usual. Gareth Barry decided that Champions League football money was a factor after all and jumped ship to their rivals while Laursen had to unfortunately retire. Neither player has been replaced as yet, while main signing Downing won’t play until Christmas. Clubs are starting to sniff around Ashley Young too.

On the plus side, Villa have a young, fast hard working squad and if they can stay fit then they’ll compete as ever. A decent, albeit relegated, right back has been signed and Bouma is fit again (is this a good thing?). It’s still quite tight between the four clubs mentioned in this preview and with bit of luck Villa could get the Europa League spot. I feel however it might be a season of regression for Martin O’Neill’s side.

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T.

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