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The 7500toHolte Aston Villa 17/18 Season Preview

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Here’s EVERYTHING you need to know about Aston Villa’s coming season. Settle in for a long one.

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The Football League Division One Trophy
Villa might have their hands on this, come the end of the season!

The heat of the summer is wearing thin, the sun is starting to hang a little lower in the sky. As we come to the final weeks of summer, we look forward not to the weather, but the return of the beautiful game. Transfer rumours still run riot, news from training camps and pre-season blowouts is still on the wire - but things are moving somewhere. Each of us, who follow a football club, are heading towards a final destination - be it the nail-biting evasion of relegation during an away game on the final day of the season, to lifting the Championship trophy in front of an adoring home crowd. It could be that your team needs to fight one, and be the least club standing at Wembley, celebrating the final promotion place.

Football’s back. Aston Villa are back. A lot has happened over the course of the Summer though, and while it wasn’t as raucous as last season, there is still some explaining to do. Everything you need to know about Aston Villa for the coming season is going to be contained right here. Put the kettle on (or if you’re Robert Lintott, get the cookbook out) and sit down - this is going to be a long one.

Welcome to our Aston Villa season preview - and welcome back to the Championship. You might have been here before, you might be new to the club; either way, we’ve a lot to talk about. Strap in.

Previously At Aston Villa...

Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

You walk to Grand Central station with expectation hanging heavy in your heart. This central hub of Birmingham is busy - with people of all shapes and sizes, but you spot a few pockets of Claret and Blue. You get on the train - but it’s not buzzing like it was this time last year. Villa have business to do, and trailing in at 14th or 10th won’t be good enough. We took a knockout blow and limped out of the Premier League in 2016. 2017 needs to be better and everyone knows it. The singing will be saved for the stands. You get off at Witton to make it quick, but last season you got off at Aston to take it all in. Things are different now. They have to be.

One thing stays the same though. You’re going to see Aston Villa on a hot August day. It’s not just their return to football, but yours. We’ve already seen one match - it was was a rather promising 1-0 loss away to Wednesday at Hillsborough, but you know this time it’s going to be different - because the best of the Championship have to walk into the lion’s den at Villa Park if they want to grab the points. First up were Rotherham and a Rudy Gestede double finished them off, before Jack Grealish froze time and slalomed around a treacle-footed defence to walk the ball into the net.

The joy found when Jack Grealish launched himself into the Holte End on that day wasn’t found too often. Villa started off playing the best football in the league, before realizing a win was hard to find. Then the draws became harder to find. Roberto Di Matteo was sacked after Preston put two past Villa. Tony Xia’s revolution looked to be a bit dead in the water. The knives came out for the scapegoats, but they didn’t last long. Steve Bruce was installed at the end of the month and got to work.

That didn’t last long either. As the cold of winter came in, Villa froze. They couldn’t find a win until a home game with Derby, where they fought tooth and nail to grab three points. Villa then went on a winning streak that threw them the slightest chance of promotion, but this was ended with a 1-1 draw in Burton that prompted Villa to lose to Fulham. The dream was over, and even a win against Birmingham couldn’t change anything. Aston Villa went out the same way the season had begun - with a Jack Grealish goal at the Holte End. Villans leaving the ground that day might have felt that history was repeating itself. They’d have to wait until August once again - but it wouldn’t be for the fanfare of football, but knowing that Villa, once more, had business to do - and a lot to prove.

What Are Villa’s Aims This Season?

Aston Villa Press Conference Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images

It’s funny that you should ask, because they have not changed at all. Aston Villa need to get promoted this year, or they will face being strangled by the financial fair play regulations of the Football League. Parachute payments don’t last forever.

Don’t get it twisted though. The lottery of the playoffs isn’t enough. You can bet your bottom dollar that the Aston Villa leadership team want an automatic spot. That means being the best in the league, or being very close to the best. If Aston Villa fall short of the playoffs, look for drastic changes. Look out for the same if Aston Villa fail in the playoffs. It’s not all or nothing yet, but failure here will show Aston Villa’s owner, Tony Xia, that the plan isn’t quite working.

The State Of The Championship

As for the league itself? It hasn’t gotten any easier. We welcome Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Hull to the Championship from the Premier League, while Millwall, Bolton and Sheffield United return to the Championship.

We say goodbye to Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic and Rotherham, who suffered relegation to League One. Thankfully, Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield are gone as well - having gotten themselves promoted last season.

Everything else is still the same. There’s 46 games to play, and you’ll need to win the majority of those to stand a chance of going up to the Premier League.

The Race For Promotion

Huddersfield Town v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

There’s a number of complex scenarios in the Championship, and it hasn’t gotten any easier. Thanks to the playoff structure, there are a number of incredibly strong Championship teams each and every season. The league is heavily dynamic though - as this year’s favourites might be destined for mid-table mediocrity come the next season.

You’d have to consider Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United, Norwich, Derby County and Fulham as the big hitters, but what about the teams dropping in from the Premier League? Hull, Middlesbrough and Sunderland could have a huge impact on the dynamics of the Championship.

Hull and Middlesbrough will be looking to claim those top two spots themselves, and while you’ll certainly consider Sunderland as favourites to go up - they looked very similar to Villa’s 15/16 team that got relegated. That tells us that things will not be easy for Sunderland, and they might find it hard, just like Villa did, to find their feet. They’ve got a decent coach in Simon Grayson, but they might not go straight up.

Aston Villa will need to be better than all of these teams throughout the season if they want to go up. You’re going to need to do slightly better than two points per game throughout the entire season to go up, as well - if you want to emulate last year’s winners, Newcastle United. What that means is one thing - Villa need to start winning from day one.

The Math

That 2 points-per-game figure isn’t plucked out of thin air, by the way. It’s proven. We will use second place finishes as the standard over the past ten years to see what the formula for promotion is.

Second Placed Teams

Points: 93, 89, 89, 93, 79, 88, 84, 91, 83, 79.

Goals for: 74, 63, 91, 72, 61, 85, 83, 89, 54, 69.

Goals against: 40, 31, 50, 37, 52, 46, 58, 48, 37, 55.

Villa will need 87 points to be an average second place team this season. That’s the target. 1.8 points per game. If Villa aren’t on course for that, they will fall short, and it really means that every single loss is going to really count agains the team.

They’ll also need about 74 goals throughout the season. We’re expecting 3 goals for every two games played. This does differ and honestly, in the big picture, scoring doesn’t matter much if you can’t defend your lead. However, this is a big worry, because it means that if Villa want to get promoted - they will need to improve on their goal scoring tally without Kodjia and Grealish who will miss the start of the season. Our writer Alex Carson says that this is necessary for Villa, who will need to learn how to use their players who aren’t Jimmy Danger and Super Jack to win games. Still, scoring this many goals isn’t unrealistic, it just means Aston Villa need to step up.

Defence is the key to promotion. 45 goals conceded is the aim for Villa. Villa will need to block three more goals compared to last season if they want to be the average 2nd place team and get promoted with 74 goals. However, the less Villa concede, the less they will need to score. Scoring is obviously important, but if you let in a goal for every goal you score, you’re going to scrape 46 points through draws. This is promising for Villa, who stand to improve on their defence. With people like John Terry at the back, Villa could aim for the golden chalice of less than 40 goals conceded.

For a playoff spot? That’s a different ball-game entirely. We’ll use sixth placed finishes as the example here.

Points: 70, 74, 70, 75, 75, 68, 72, 78, 74, 80,

Goals for: 62, 66, 74, 69, 66, 71, 55, 72, 66, 85

Goals against: 56, 54, 58, 50, 53, 48, 40, 54, 45, 57

74 points is what gets you a playoff place in the average championship season. That’s 1.6 points per game, so the falloff is steep. If you’re not getting around 3 points every two games, you’re not going anywhere fast.

Villa will need 69 goals to grab that 6th placed finish - still requiring a massive increase in goalscoring. Funnily enough, this was the same goal tally that led Steve Bruce’s Hull grabbing 4th place and eventual promotion, although they only conceded 35 goals.

The average 6th placed team will concede 52 goals over the course of a season. Villa can beat this target with ease. I’d be very confident of a 6th placed finish if Villa can slightly improve their defense, while improving their attack. Even then, Villa were hard done by with luck last season - in the RDM stint, they came so close to winning so often. If Bruce wants to taste the playoffs, he’ll need to ensure his team are fit and alert through 90+ minutes.

Who won the playoffs? Well, let’s take a look. The third placed team won the Playoffs nearly half the time over the past ten years, with four wins. The 6th placed team has one it once, while the 5th placed team won it three times and 4th placed teams and third place teams have won it three times each. It’s very much a lottery - but that being said, if you finish If you finish 6th, you’ll need to defy history. 5th is an interesting example, but the numbers were boosted by a very good Huddersfield team that finished 5th - but could have been the type of team to win the league. Villa will need to aim high and be consistent.

The Players

We’ll get into the transfers later, but even without the new lads, Aston Villa have one of the best squads in the Championship - even if you consider fringe players like Leandro Bacuna and Gary Gardner, the latter who is a proven player in the league through a number of loan spells. We’ll break down the squad in a variety of sections, mainly to do with performances and expectations. Who is key to Villa’s success this year? Who needs to do better? Who is destined for the reserves? Who are the young stars who are ready to make an impact? As stated, we’ll save the transfers for later; let’s get back in touch with Villa’s usual suspects.

The Keys To Promotion - Villa’s Key Players

Aston Villa v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images

If Villa have one thing going right, it’s the incredible amount of players you’d consider key to promotion.

Mile Jedinak is the jewel of the Villa squad right now. He’s not an incredible midfielder, but his off-the-ball work displays Premier League intelligence. Jedinak has a world-class footballing brain, but hasn’t got the skills to really match. It doesn’t matter much though, because Villa are a different side with him.

If there is one guaranteed starter in the team that isn’t Jedinak, it’s James Chester. Chester was never not immense for Villa at the back in a season in which every single team in the championship gunned for them. He scored critical goals, saved Villa on a number of occasions. Alongside John Terry, we can only expect the Welshman to improve.

When we speak of key players, we think of one man. Jonathan Kodjia. Villa’s star striker is an absolute asset to the team. He’s a complete forward. Where does he work best? From anywhere! He’ll steal a header from a corner, he’ll score a looping effort from the edge of the box, he’ll run from deep and he’ll shoot from range. Just don’t expect him to pass too much.

Villa cannot rely on Kodjia to save them this season, though. For that reason, their promotion hopes might rest on the performances of Scott Hogan. Kodjia should not start every game for Villa if they want to keep their key man fit - and that means we need to expect Scott Hogan to perform. He’s very similar to Jonathan Kodjia in the fact that he’ll have a go at goal from anywhere - he just needs to find his fitness and confidence.

Conor Hourihane will be expected to lead the way for Villa this season. The box to box man can be the player to finally replace those snakeskin Fabian Delph-sized boots in the middle of the park for Villa if he builds on his performances from last year. He bossed it at Barnsley, but couldn’t quite find his bearings at Villa Park in the latter half of the season. With a full preseason under him, he should be raring to go.

Jack Grealish had a good year for Villa last time out - believe it or not. Despite not steadily starting across the season, he pitched in with some key goals and set-up enough goals to keep Villa competing. Again, he’ll need to build on that because Villa need their key men firing on all cylinders throughout the season if they want to get promoted. Five goals and five assists is good, but those figures need to rise if Jack Grealish is to call himself one of Villa’s key men this season. Unfortunately, he’s going to be out for a while with a kidney injury. Let’s hope Villa do not miss him too much.

It’s a shame Albert Adomah is injured for the start of the season after hurting himself in a pre-season game, as he quietly became one of Villa’s better performers on the wing last season. 11 assists tell the whole story as Adomah connected with Jonathan Kodjia across the season. He also pitched in three goals, but we’ll let him off - due to the fact he was Villa’s main creator. More of the same please! If there’s a player that Jack Grealish needs to emulate, it’s Albert Adomah.

Must Do Better - The Players That Need To Do A Bit More

AFC Telford United v Aston Villa: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Henri Lansbury didn’t get much luck at Villa last season. No pass seemed to come off for him, no shot seemed to go in. He performed relatively well, but if Villa want to kick on this season, he’ll need to as well. With a defensive midfielder behind him, and the tireless Conor Hourihane supporting him, Lansbury has all the excuses he needs to go gung-ho and win games for Villa. He’s an excellent player, but he needs to excel on the pitch for Villa now. This isn’t to say that Lansbury is a poor performer, but if he’s able to step up his game, he’ll have the biggest impact. Let’s see him do that for Villa this season.

Gary Gardner simply wasn’t up to the task last season, and that’s unfortunate. He’s a gifted player, but he’s not young anymore. He can certainly perform for Villa, but it needs to be consistent. His work rate is fantastic, but he needs to play simple box-to-box football instead of trying to work magic. He’s not that type of player. Despite this, it looks as though GG might be on his way out of the club.

Ross McCormack was bought to lead the line for Villa last season, but the late buy of Jonathan Kodjia saved the day when McCormack went AWOL. Personal problems gave him a nightmare of the season, but he’s back with the backing of Villa. He’ll need to find the net a few more times if he wants to live up to his pricetag, but he might be on the way out. Either way, we need more from him if he’s to play a role with the Villa, which he’ll have to if he’s not moved on.

For whatever reason, Gabby Agbonlahor is still around. Like it or hate it, he’s a factor. That means we need support him on the pitch and expect some performances. For the past two seasons, Gabby’s output has not been good enough - that’s a fact. Despite the goal against Birmingham and his relatively exciting performance in that game, we don’t see it enough. Gabby showed a lot in that game, and he needs to bottle it and bring it out whenever he’s on the pitch. If he does, he could be one of the keys to promotion, but if he doesn’t - he’ll surely be out the door. Villa need more from this man.

Steady Performers - Reliable, Unspectacular, Needed

Blackburn Rovers v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Aston Villa’s own cafu - Alan Hutton had a pretty great year by his standards. Roving the right wing, he did it all. If he had a bit more talent, Villa would have bossed games, but his work-ethic is to be admired. Unfortunately, if your desire to play is getting you out of position, then you’ve got to work on things. In a 3-5-2, Hutton will thrive, but if he’s part of a back four, he’ll need to calm down.

Birkir Bjarnason is a gifted footballer, and he’s the left-sided answer to Leandro Bacuna. We don’t have a big sample of his play, but he’s a grafter and a team player - two things Villa are in dire need of. Hopefully ‘Thor’ can get his sea legs under him this season.

Ritchie De Laet missed last season via an injury and it looks likely that he’ll deputise at right-back and centre-back for Villa this season. Another injury looks set to keep him on the fringes of the team.

Leandro Bacuna is Villa’s Swiss Army Knife. He’s never spectacular, but he almost always does the job he has been told to do. He’s a passionate, excitable player - but his tasks and jobs on the pitch are always dull. It’s when he does his own thing that the excitement levels rise at Villa Park, and Villa should relish that and finally play him where he wants to play. Bacuna can go missing if he’s deployed in defense, and that’s not good for anyone. Play him in an attacking role and let us see what he can do. Villa even rejected a bid from Reading for him!

Neil Taylor didn’t impress, but he didn’t fail the Villa faithful at all. He’s a steady presence on the left and while he’s no super-star, it’s good to have a steady pair of feet on the left, which has been a problem position for Villa for a number of years.

Young Guns - Waiting To Step Up

AFC Telford United v Aston Villa: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Aston Villa’s youngsters got a big chance to shine in the pre-season friendlies. Andre Green absolutely bossed the pitch during the first half of the Telford match, grabbing a goal - but it was his pace and intelligence that made him a threat. He was a constant wonder on the ball. As an out and out winger, Andre Green is a direct threat and always runs forward. He’s a smart passer, but needs to work on his crossing. If he can emulate Jordan Amavi with his delivery, he’ll be a threat. This lad needs to start every game on the left for Villa this season. He’s a threat and he’ll be Premier League quality if he continues to growing, and could be that within a year.

Keinan Davis is a surprising talent as well. Signed from Biggleswade Town last year, Davis has made a real impact at Villa so far. His 45 minutes against Brighton showed an intelligent deep-lying forward, who used his weight well. Davis is the best target man in the squad, no doubt about it, and brings others into play so well - the problem is he can never get his feet under him to score. When you have to choose between Gabby Agbonlahor and Davis, you’d be inclined to go for Gabby - simply because he does the same things and can hit the target. That doesn’t mean Davis isn’t a great talent (or that Gabby is better), it just means he needs to continue growing. He should get a number of games this season, and will need to continue impressing. Villa need to stop relying on aging talent, but they cannot help it if that talent delivers - Davis is a youth player who could step up this year in a big, big way. If Gabby isn’t on form, expect Davis to step up.

Jordan Lyden will have a role to play this season as the utility man will look to mirror Leandro Bacuna and fill in where he’s needed. He’s good at going forward, but it seems that Villa want to give that role to Jake Doyle-Hayes, with Lyden carrying the team. It’d be a shame to waste Lyden’s attacking ability though, where he has filled in on the wing on occasion.

Villa have an especially bright talent in the academy with a very high ceiling. Callum O’Hare might as well be Villa’s Messi, because he does it all. He can score, make dazzling runs, bring others into play, trick defenders and ruin an offside trap. There are very few reasons why O’Hare should not start this year - but the big killer is Villa’s depth. You wouldn’t replace Andre Green, Jack Grealish or Albert Adomah with O’Hare right now. However, he should be on the bench for all of Villa’s games because he is an incredible player. He’s more direct than Jack Grealish and seems to have an incredible footballing intelligence. If Villa were smart, they’d keep him around the first-team this year, or even loan him out. A spell in a lower league could give him a bit of physicality.

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy returned to pre-season action only recently after nursing an injury throughout the summer. While he took a thump against Telford, it’s expected the mercurial striker will be on the fringe of the first-team this season, with Keinan Davis the preferred striking option from the reserves.

Mitch Clarke, Jake Doyle-Hayes and Easah Suliman are expected to be on the real fringes on the first team. Don’t expect much from this season - they are Villa’s future aces.

New Faces

Aston Villa Press Conference Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images

Aston Villa weren’t too active early on in the transfer window - but made a huge splash when June faded into July. John Terry was signed by the Villans in an extremely high-profile move. The legendary centre-half was Steve Bruce’s top target in the summer - and in the pre-season photos, you can quite genuinely see the happiness in Bruce’s face. For Bruce, Terry was quite literally the one that got away. Not anymore, the Chelsea legend will start for Villa in every game he’s fit to play in.

Aston Villa’s main transfer saga surrounded the return of Sam Johnstone. After a rough start to life at Villa, the Manchester United reserve managed to get on top of things and help Villa to a winning streak to almost see out the season. He looked a bag of nerves at times, but at points - there was not a more confident player than Sam Johnstone. His loan move expired, and Steve Bruce almost immediately made a move for him at the end of May, by meeting with Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho. Johnstone seemed set to sign on a permanent deal once more - but this changed to a loan deal, and then nothing at all. Johnstone was being targeted by a number of Premier League clubs, and it seemed that Championship outfit Middlesbrough had become the favourite to sign him. A simple deal had turned into something else entirely. Sam Johnstone finally signed on a season-long loan from Manchester United, and we’re all left wondering if this couldn’t have been done and dusted back in May. It took 2 weeks to sign John Terry, and almost two months to sign Sam Johnstone.

The Villa were also linked with Joe Hart, Peter Crouch, Glenn Whelan and others. Of those signings, it was only Glenn Whelan who arrived at Villa Park, looking to add steadiness to Villa’s midfield - a part of the team that lacked substance without Mile Jedinak in the middle of the park. Whelan adds a bit of style as well - he’s not just a long baller and has a bit of technique behind him.

Ahmed Elmohamady was brought in to shore up Villa’s right side and add depth as a winger from Hull City as well. The defence of the team got some depth with the addition of Chris Samba, who impressed during pre-season with the team. These quick fire deals added a lot of positivity.

A late deal for Abel Hernandez on the eve of the season opener was rumoured to be on the cards, and it did look pretty serious for a few moments - however Dr. Tony put his boot to the deal and squashed the rumour.

The transfer window isn’t over yet though, and Villa could stand to make a few more deals right up until deadline day. We’ll keep you posted, though.

  • John Terry from Chelsea - Free Transfer
  • Sam Johnstone from Manchester United - Loan
  • Chris Samba - Free transfer
  • Ahmed Elmohamady from Hull - £1.5m
  • Glenn Whelan from Stoke - £1m

On The Way Out

Fulham v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

What’s a transfer window without a number of departures? Carlos Sanchez left to Fiorentina without any fanfare at all. Jordan Amavi left quick-sharp to Champions League football and Sevilla, however the move fell through following a failed medical.

Carles Gil headed out to Deportivo La Coruna on a loan-to-transfer deal which will see out the Spanish wingers time at Villa.

Jordan Veretout, on the other hand, didn’t leave Villa so easily. Despite an agreement with Saint-Etienne, the French midfielder stayed around long enough to feature rather heavily for Villa in the pre-season. Just as you thought he’d found his way back into the Villa first team, Saint-Etienne came back in for him, but the move to Les Verts hit the rocks when Fiorentina of Florence, Italy, made a bid.

Surprisingly, a number of Roberto Di Matteo signings were put up for grabs as well. Despite Aston Villa’s owner moaning about bad contracts - it seemed that Pierluigi Gollini, Aaron Tshibola and Tommy Elphick were allowed to leave after being at the club for less than a calendar year. Gary Gardner was also listed, after being left out for a pre-season trip. Tshibola made his move to MK Dons on loan and might have a role to play at Villa in the future, while the others are waiting to be moved on. It seems that Ross McCormack might be on the way out as well - but might even end up staying. We’ll see.

Nathan Baker was the next man out the door. Worried about his playing time, the centre-back left to play for Bristol City, where he’ll no doubt make a name for himself.

It was also said that Jordan Amavi would be heading to Monaco; who expressed an interest in the defender. However, as of writing this, he is still here.

  • Carlos Sanchez to Fiorentina - £2.5m
  • Jordan Amavi to Sevilla - £8m
  • Carles Gil to Deportivo - Loan
  • Aaron Tshibola to MK Dons - loan.
  • Jordan Veretout to Fiorentina - £7m
  • Nathan Baker to Bristol City - £1m

(All fees are estimated)

An International Summer

England U19 v Netherlands U19 - International Friendly Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images

Aston Villa weren’t without a few international heroes this summer, no.

First up, it was Jack Grealish. Jack claimed the Toulon Tourney once more with England, but didn’t see much playing time at all. This might have something to do with his tense relationship with Aidy Boothroyd more than anything else though. England crashed out of the U21 Euros to Germany.

On the other hand, Easah Suliman had a fairly big impact in the U19 championships and not just by knocking out a Dutch attacker! Easah mainly performed steadily throughout the tournament; allowing his defensive partner Trevoh Chalobah to grab the plaudits. It was in the final of the tournament against where Easah starred - grabbing a poachers effort from a set piece to give England the lead before defending against a rabid Portugal attack. His side won out and he returns to Villa with a winner’s medal around his neck.

Mile Jedinak featured for Australia against Saudi Arabia and other countries in his neck of the woods. Unfortunately, he succumbed to a recurring groin problem that he is receiving treatment for.

Socceroos Training Session Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

Leandro Bacuna was the only senior involved in a tournament - winning the Carribbean Championship with Curaçao after a 2-1 victory over Jamaica. They didn’t see much success in the Gold Cup though, getting smacked around by the Reggae Boyz in a grudge match before exiting without a point.

The Manager

Aston Villa v Watford - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

Steve Bruce. Love him or hate him, but he’s the man with the best chance of getting Villa up this season. If he’s sluggish to start, and sacked by October, it’s likely that Villa have blew their chances of a title. Bruce knows that the playoffs won’t be good enough - and he’s got to produce his best season yet. Luckily for Bruce, he’s been backed. Some key additions along with some rich depth in Villa’s squad mean that all Bruce should have to do is ensure Villa are stable at the back. If Bruce’s Villa concede less than 31 goals this season, he’s done a good job - but only if Villa can score. Bruce is a good defensive manager, and thats where his talents lie - Villa’s defence is key to promotion this season; and this man knows that if he cannot get the most out of a talented defensive corps, then his time is up. If Villa defend well, they have the talent to score goals, so Bruce will need to allow his team the freedom and independence to create and score goals. They’ll need to press and bite for the ball and fight for every tackle, but a Bruce team is capable of that. If Villa start lumping longballs towards the opposition keeper, they’ll only score through pure luck - which is not something Villa can usually rely on. Bruce will need to prove his doubters wrong, and if he cannot make it with this squad, where can he make it?

New Threads

Aston Villa have a pretty stunning home kit this season thanks to Under Armour. It’s almost like a woven tapestry and the only thing letting it down is the crime against typography committed by Unibet. You can pick it up here. For our money though, last season’s kit wasn’t bad, and it’s going for cheaper prices. If something’s true, at least Villa will look good, if not anything else.

Squad Numbers

1. Sam Johnstone

2. Ritchie De Laet

3. Neil Taylor

4. Chris Samba

5. James Chester

6. Glenn Whelan

7. Leandro Bacuna

8. Henri Lansbury

9. Scott Hogan

10. Jack Grealish

11. Gabriel Agbonlahor

13. Jed Steer

14. Conor Hourihane

15. Mile Jedinak

16. James Bree

17. Micah Richards

19. Andre Green

20. Birkir Bjarnason

21. Alan Hutton

22. Jonathan Kodjia

23. Jordan Amavi

24. Tommy Elphick

25. Gary Gardner

26. John Terry

27. Ahmed Elmohamady

31. Mark Bunn

37. Albert Adomah

44. Ross McCormack

How Can You Follow Villa This Season?

Last season was awful for a lot of reasons. Also, people couldn’t even watch Villa. If you were a foreign fan, you’d find it hard pressed to follow Aston Villa, and usually you’d have to rely on AVTV and radio coverage. Now, there’s a certain magic behind following the football by radio, but it’s not the best stage for soccer - which is a visual feast. Thankfully, if you’re following from overseas - you’ll have the opportunity to view games. If you pay for it, of course. It works out at about £6 per game, which is near enough nine dollars, you’ll find value if you buy the season package at about £110, but only relative value - this is still expensive.

The iFollow platform was granted to all EFL clubs this season, but some clubs like Villa have opted out to use their own platform. Let’s hope it’s up to scratch - but at least fans abroad can follow the Villa when they are not on TV. That will be through AVTV.

Blackburn Rovers v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

If you’re a domestic Villa fan, you’ll need to get down to games. At Villa Park, prices for adults start at about twenty quid, while youngsters can get in from a fiver. Season tickets start from just under three-hundred and fifty pounds as well, for adults - but the cost can be spread. There will no doubt be a half-season ticket available in the winter as well. Away games take place all across the country for varying prices as well - but there are some great experiences to be had. Burton, Leeds and Fulham seem like fan-favourite away days.

All of Villa’s televised games will be on Sky Sports in the UK - and have moved from BeIn to ESPN3/BAMTECH in the US. The best way to follow Villa will be through AVTV, though, especially if you are not in the UK/Ireland.

Villa’s first game is against Hull this coming Saturday, which will be televised. The next game is a few days later as Villa take on Colchester in the Carabao Cup (EFL Cup, League Cup) - then you’ll have to wait until the end of the month when Villa take on Bristol City for the next televised game.

But there’s always the radio. And us.

Conclusion

We’re set for a good season at Villa Park, but the past proves that we’re looking for disappointment. The math says that Villa are on track to succeed if they stick to their guns - but football is fluid. Things happen and unforeseen events occur. A last minute header past Johnstone on the last day against Millwall could derail the team. An opening day loss against Hull might lead to a spell of bad fun. If Villa want to succeed, Bruce will need to get Villa firing without Jonathan Kodjia, but he will also need to rely on John Terry to secure Villa’s goalmouth. Everything needs to fall into place for Villa, and for once - it might just be this season; even with three key players missing for the first few months. Tony Xia is surely expecting a top 2 finish, so why shouldn’t we? It’s possible. If Villa do entre the playoffs, resist the temptation to celebrate, as usually, when the rules of ‘Any Given Saturday’ apply, Villa are usually on the receiving end of a beating. It’s time to turn the tables.

See you on Saturday.