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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Premier League fixtures
10 - Tottenham v Aston Villa
17 - Aston Villa v Bournemouth
23 - Aston Villa v Everton
31 - Crystal Palace v Aston Villa
16 - Aston Villa v West Ham
21 - Arsenal v Aston Villa
28 - Aston Villa v Burnley
5 -Norwich City v Aston Villa
19 - Aston Villa v Brighton
26 - Manchester City v Aston Villa
2 - Aston Villa v Liverpool
9 - Wolves v Aston Villa
23 - Aston Villa v Newcastle
30 - Manchester United v Aston Villa
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
1 - Burnley v Aston Villa
11 - Aston Villa v Manchester City
18 - Brighton v Aston Villa
21 - Aston Villa v Watford
1 - Bournemouth v Aston Villa
8 - Aston Villa v Tottenham
22 - Southampton v Aston Villa
29 - Aston Villa v Sheffield United
7 - Leicester City v Aston Villa
14 - Aston Villa v Chelsea
21 - Newcastle United v Aston Villa
4 - Aston Villa v Wolves
11 - Liverpool v Aston Villa
18 - Aston Villa v Manchester United
25 - Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
2 - Everton v Aston Villa
9 - Aston Villa v Arsenal
17 - West Ham v Aston Villa
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