Aston Villa Preview 2015/16

Aston Villa Preview of 2015/6 Season

What Happened Last Year?

Villa almost sank!

The Villans started the season in spectacular fashion, winning three of their first four matches, including an away win at Liverpool.  New signing Senderos surprised everybody with some incredible performances early on and then things very quickly went wrong.  Villa forgot how to score, lost key players to injuries, parted ways with their somewhat controversial assistant manager Roy Keane and then found themselves among the favourites to be relegated.  More than anything, the fans were disheartened by the boring, boring football that Villa were attempting to play.  Lambert started to make changes, opting for more passing and was then fired.

Lambert had a really tough job.  He was many fans' first choice to replace Martin O'Neil after O'Neil left the club a few days before the beginning of a new season.  Lambert's first task was to reduce the wage bill and get expensive earners such as Given, Bent, N'Zogbia, off the books and therefore his spending budget was limited.  Despite that, Lambert did make some very good signings: Gil, Westwood, Guzan (who he recalled after he had been released), Sanchez, Vlaar, all really good players who are still at Villa today.  Lambert also bought Kozak who may go on to become a great player and of course, Benteke, who has recently been sold for a huge amount of money.  Lambert was also able to convince Delph to sign a new contract.

Lambert was sacked and Sherwood stormed in to Villa Park as his replacement, promising excitement.  He certainly brought excitement and finally, some goals!  Villa only secured two clean sheets in the final eleven games of the season but they did manage to score 19 goals, fantastic, and more importantly, they managed to score enough points to not be relegated.

Close Season

It emerged that Delph had negotiated himself a very low release clause, whilst out-of-contract Vlaar did not want to stay at Villa and Benteke also had a release clause in his contract too, so Sherwood was forced to sell Delph and Benteke and Vlaar left: the core of the Aston Villa first team gone!

Nothing like that was ever going to hold Sherwood back.  The emphatic manager went on to clear out the rest of the squad that he didn't want.  Bent and Given, along with their large salaries, were both released and others soon followed as Lowton, El Ahmadi, Weimann, Sylla, Luna, Helenius and Stevens left the club too.  Twelve from the first team squad were gone!  Villa gained a total of around £42m for those sales.

What about replacements?  Villa bought a lot of new faces in, nine in total, totally a reported £45m.  Apparently, it isn't finished yet.  Sherwood is negotiating with both Berbatov and Adebayor and may well sign those two players too, and is also reported to be after Lescott.

The Players Bought

What do we know about the new signings?  Are they any good?

Sinclair, the bright quick winger was signed on a permanent deal having joined on loan last year.
Richards is a super defender.  He has been accused of not being tactically aware, but he is strong, athletic and a very good player.
Gestede is a 6'4" monster striker, a bit like Benteke and apparently scored more headed goals in the football league during the last two years than any other player.
Ayew is an all around striker, athletic, has good control and movement so could play anywhere across the front.  
Vertout is a creative attacking midfielder who has created loads of chances and scored quite a few goals in the last couple of years.  Sherwood said "he's only young but has played 140 matches in Ligue 1 already and is very experienced for his age.
Amavi, a french U21 left-back is very highly rated, especially for his attacking skills.  He takes free kicks and corners too.
Gueye, another French African, is a monster midfielder who runs up and down a lot and wants to be used in a more attacking role and apparently Sherwood promised he would be.
Crespo was a lower league journeyman, traveling all around Europe but not really making it stick.  He is also cheap.  I suspect he is fall-back-sub.  I mean "full", sorry.
Bunn, I expect will be the reserve goalkeeper.

Adebayor as a possibility is an enigma.  He seems to have a bad reputation but his career stats suggest he has always scored an average of about one goal in every two games, which is really, really good.  However, Sherwood has just signed Gestede; does he need Adebayor?
Berbatov, described by many as languid, relaxed, is truly classy but I don't really think that Villa need another striker.

Most of the players signed so far, with the exception of Richards (26, former England international) and Crespo, (29?) are young and seem to be very highly rated players that are on the verge of becoming stars.  If they had stayed at their previous clubs, it seems that each of them would be on the path to becoming full internationals and recognised stars within the next 2-3 years.

So I think we can say that the new signings are high quality players who have a lot of potential.

The Team

The defence has better players than last year, but that means Guzan is still the boss of the defence.  Vlaar has finally left the Villa medical room but that should not affect the team for most of their matches as he wasn't fit anyway.  I imagine that Hutton will continue as right-back with Richards in the middle partnering either Okore or Clark.  Baker, Senderos would therefore be subs.  Amavi will be left-back with Richardson, Bennet as subs.  Crespo and Bacuna could fill on at full back on either side, along with Richards who could move across to right-back in games where Hutton is deemed not up to it or unavailable.

Bacuna, Crespo, Amavi are all really attacking players, so there is also the option of playing three central defenders, presumably Richards, Okore and Clark, with wing backs.

This looks like a fairly solid back line to me, with the option of changing tactics.

I really like Sanchez as a defensive player who can sit in front of the back four, get in the way a lot, hold the ball, move it around simply and has real quality on the ball.  I actually think he won't play a lot though, despite having a really good international tournament during the Summer with Columbia.

Gueye is the most likely to start every game.  He should be used as a normal midfielder, running up and down doing a bit of everything, tackling, passing, scoring goals.

Then I think Sherwood has a huge number of choices.  Westwood can be used to "keep things ticking over", recycling the ball, doing a bit of everything too, or Vertout who is more attacking, or Gil the genius or Cole the pensioner.  Grealish might even be used "in da hole" to be a nuisance in general.  I suspect Villa will mostly play with Westwood in the centre of midfield with Vertout and Gueye playing attacking roles just outside.  In matches where Villa would not have much of the ball, Westwood would probably be dropped for Sanchez.  If they switch to two central midfielders, there are lots of options, I'd expect the boss to choose Westwood and Gueye.  In that case, he then has a lot of choices for wingers: Sinclair would be first choice, Vertout, Grealish, Gil, even Gabby.

I'm really optimistic about that midfield combination.  It's stronger than last year as I am not sure just how many chances Delph really created...yes, he had lots of energy and did cool and clever things that made us say "wow!!!" but it did not often result in a goal.  Whilst his energy will be missed, I suspect that Gueye has a lot of energy too and might score some goals, and then this year Villa have the option to switch it around a bit.

I think at the moment, Gil, Grealish, Sanchez will struggle to play in every game.

Villa have too many attackers now!  The main centre-forward should probably be Kozak but I am not sure that he will be.  Villa have Kozak, Gestede, Ayew, all of whom would play well as a centre-forward or as a set of two.  If Villa play one-up-top then they could use Ayew as a wide striker on one side and then any from Grealish, Gil, Sinclair as a winger on the other side.  Gabby can also play that role of course or as a speedster in combination with another striker.  Vertout can also play as a winger.

If Adebayor comes in too, I would expect him to be the first choice striker.

So, in general, I believe Villa have a much better first-11 than last year, with much better squad players and also have so many options for changing things around.  It depends a lot on how quickly Sherwood can find his best team and how quickly they build an understanding and settle into life in England.

Despite the ramblings of Shearer, who seems to think that Newcastle have a great squad this year, I expect the likes of Newcastle and Sunderland to really struggle.  Along with Leicester, Watford, Bournemouth, Norwich, WBA, Stoke, there are plenty of teams that should struggle to finish above Villa.

Considering all of this, I expect Villa to finish around 10th-12th place and am really looking forward to see how these new players perform!

Up The Villa!

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