Aston Villa preview: Villans ready to consolidate Premier League status

Aston Villa splashed more than £130million on over a dozen new recruits, but whether that helps consolidate its Premier League status remains to be seen.

Expectations weigh heavy on the shoulders of club captain Jack Grealish.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Of the newly promoted clubs this season, Aston Villa’s case is unique. For 24 seasons since the inception of the Premier League, the club’s top-flight status had remained intact. The Midlands club faced the threat of relegation for three straight seasons from 2012-13 to 2014-15, but Paul Lambert had managed to secure the top flight status in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Tim Sherwood was the saviour in 2014-15 after taking over from Lambert with the club marooned in the bottom three. However, the writing was on the wall for Villa, which got relegated to the Championship at the end of the 2015-16 season, when it took the wooden spoon.

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The appointment of Dean Smith as manager in October last year was instrumental in Villa’s return to the Premier League by winning the Championship playoff final against Derby County. As a newly promoted club, Aston Villa finds itself in uncharted territory again. Manager Smith has thanked the owners for backing him in the transfer market, with Villa splashing more than £130million on over a dozen new recruits, but whether that helps consolidate the top-flight status remains to be seen.

Transfer activity

Wesley Moraes (from Club Brugge) Tyrone Mings (from Bournemouth), Douglas Luiz (from Manchester City), Matt Targett (from Southampton), and Tom Heaton (from Burnley) are the club’s marquee signings.

Wesley has been signed for a club-record fee of £22million, while Mings, Targett and Heaton bring Premier League experience to the setup.

Players to watch out for

Jack Grealish

A player of Irish heritage who was close to joining Tottenham at the start of last season, Grealish is Aston Villa’s captain. The 23-year-old operates predominantly as a midfielder who contributed an equal number of goals and assists in the Championship last season (6 goals and 6 assists). Grealish has evolved into a more complete, matured player from the last time the club was in the Premier League, and his form and fitness will be vital to Aston Villa remaining in the Premier League beyond the season.

Tyrone Mings

Injuries and suspensions limited the 26-year-old’s time on the pitch while he was at Bournemouth, but he played 18 times for Villa after the loan move in January and emerged as a fan-favourite at Villa Park. The Englishman’s transition into the new role as a defensive mainstay, after his exploits last season, will be fascinating to watch.  

Season expectations

The squad has undergone an overhaul and there’s Premier League experience within the squad and among the coaching staff, with John Terry serving as Smith’s assistant. Villa appears to have the qualities to remain a Premier League club come the end of the season, but its reaction to setbacks during the season will determine its final league position.

Aston Villa's transfer activity

IN: Jota (£4m, Birmingham), Anwar El Ghazi (£8m, Lille), Wesley Moraes (£22m, Club Brugge), Kortney Hause (£3m, Wolves), Matt Targett (£14m, Southampton), Tyrone Mings (£20m, Bournemouth), Ezri Konsa (£12m, Brentford), Bjorn Engels (£7m, Stade Reims), Trezeguet (£8.75m, Kasimpasa), Douglas Luiz (£12.5m, Manchester City), Tom Heaton (£8m, Burnley). 
OUT: Harvey Knibbs (free, Cambridge), Gary Gardner (undisclosed, Birmingham), Tommy Elphick (free, Huddersfield), Albert Adomah (free, Nottingham Forest), Corey Blackett-Taylor (free, Tranmere), Ritchie De Laet (free, Royal Antwerp), Matija Sarkic (loan, Livingston), Jake Doyle-Hayes (loan, Cheltenham), Andre Green (loan, Preston), Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (loan, Tranmere), Jordan Lyden (free, Swindon), Birkir Bjnarson, Ross McCormack, Alan Hutton, Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Micah Richards, Mark Bunn (all released)

 

Premier League fixtures

August

10 - Tottenham v Aston Villa

17 - Aston Villa v Bournemouth

23 - Aston Villa v Everton

31 - Crystal Palace v Aston Villa

September

16 - Aston Villa v West Ham

21 - Arsenal v Aston Villa

28 - Aston Villa v Burnley

October

5 -Norwich City v Aston Villa

19 - Aston Villa v Brighton

26 - Manchester City v Aston Villa

November

2 - Aston Villa v Liverpool

9 - Wolves v Aston Villa

23 - Aston Villa v Newcastle

30 - Manchester United v Aston Villa

December

4 - Chelsea v Aston Villa

7 - Aston Villa v Leicester City

14 - Sheffield United v Aston Villa

21 - Aston Villa v Southampton

26 - Aston Villa v Norwich City

28 - Watford v Aston Villa

January

1 - Burnley v Aston Villa

11 - Aston Villa v Manchester City

18 - Brighton v Aston Villa

21 - Aston Villa v Watford

February

1 - Bournemouth v Aston Villa

8 - Aston Villa v Tottenham

22 - Southampton v Aston Villa

29 - Aston Villa v Sheffield United

March

7 - Leicester City v Aston Villa

14 - Aston Villa v Chelsea

21 - Newcastle United v Aston Villa

April

4 - Aston Villa v Wolves

11 - Liverpool v Aston Villa

18 - Aston Villa v Manchester United

25 - Aston Villa v Crystal Palace

May

2 - Everton v Aston Villa

9 - Aston Villa v Arsenal

17 - West Ham v Aston Villa