Aston Villa have now brought the curtain down on a very disrupted pre-season campaign as Covid continues to prove it exists and isn’t a 5G conspiracy and on top of that, head coach Dean Smith is also dealing with the added complication of Jack Grealish’s departure.
With a couple of friendlies having to be cancelled, it has been a reasonable, albeit not perfect, warm up to the 2021/22 campaign with victories over Walsall and Bristol City, although the 2-0 defeat to Stoke City still sticks a bit – but it was a very mixed squad with our internationals not back at that point.
Yesterday, we completed the programme with a 3-1 victory over Serie A side U.S Salernitana 1919 (apparently Lazio’s feeder club), following goals from Danny Ings, an Anwar El Ghazi penalty and an effort from Ashley Young. Few expected it to be a stern test but the newly promoted Serie A side helped us get more minutes into the legs ahead of the game that counts – Watford (& the Graham Taylor Trophy) in our Premier League curtain raiser next Saturday.
We also now have Axel Tuanzebe back through the door as a season long loan, as his return was announced just prior to kick off.
Despite the departure of ‘he who shall not be named twice’ we have had a good summer, and whether by design or by fluke, we have brought in players who round the squad off nicely, provide Smith with alternative options and multiple means of attack so we’ll no longer be as predictable as we were.
That in itself should also help to hugely offset our attempts to find another way to play when the supremely talented ‘shall not be named a twice’ spent his usual 1/3rd of the season out with an undisclosed or non-timescaled shin injury, as ably pointed out the other day by Vital Villa forum member RosettaStoned.
Whilst Smith is right and he’s irreplaceable, we are a better squad given the arrivals of Emi Buendia, Ashley Young, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings and whether or not there are more to come before the window ‘slams shut’, we can’t forget last summers’ captures and Morgan Sanson will be better having now tasted the level and better settled in at the club. The biggest question is how long will it take for us to click again, given our attacking approach will now be different?
We also shouldn’t forget the roles the likes of both Aaron and Jacob Ramsey, Jaden Philogene-Bidace and Carney Chukwuemeka might play this year given their more rapid promotions into the first team squad. Given the crop of youngsters we now have, they might not be the only youngsters we see take to the pitch at points either as we keep one eye on the future.
We might have lost our talisman, but I think we can be better for it as long as players step up and try and seize that tag for themselves now.
Vital Villa’s Where Will We Finish Forum Thread
Back in May I asked about season expectations for the coming year:
Consolidate Midtable Finish – 7%
Minimum Top Half Finish – 33%
Got To Be Europe – 50%
Midtable But A Cup – 10%
I wonder how thoughts have changed since we added £100million to our kitty as well as the four signings + loan so far?
Has Your Aim Changed For 2021/22?
Consolidate Midtable Finish
Minimum Top Half Finish
Got To Be Europe
Midtable But A Cup
Whatever the future holds for this season it’s going to be another fascinating ride. Do we start with a bang like last season before it catches up with us? Do we struggle as we find our feet sans ‘named twice?’ Do we plod along quietly and efficiently and go under the radar as nobody expects anything from us again?
Smith may well have said Europe is the aim, and few fans will disagree because it’s what we should always be aiming for as a minimum.
But – we can never forget we are the Villa – and we never do things the easy way and it has been a summer of change.
Buckle up and enjoy folks, only five more days to go and we still might have a fresh face or two.