The squad isn’t set, nor is the formation, or the lineup, and there won’t be names on the back of yet unveiled (but leaks are out). There are more questions than answers right now for Aston Villa back among in the top division.
Obvious caveat: Transfers change everything and Villa are clearly doing working to address some of the following concerns. But I’m not going to write that at the end of every paragraph. Presume this sentiment applies throughout.
1 — Are you going to Minnesota?
If you are — check out this Facebook page where some of the North American Chairman are organizing events before/during/after the match. Sadly, I won’t be there because it falls on my wedding anniversary and I’ve been informed that that is important. But having seen Villa both in Philadelphia and Houston — I can assure you it is a good time.
2 — Starting Keeper?
Now that the event planning is over — on to the football questions. I’ll admit the genesis of this post is this question because of a my own tweet the other day.
Prediction: Nyland will have the most starts for Villa this season. https://t.co/9gu0QD1wAZ— Phil Vogel (@PBVogel) July 5, 2019
The keeper position is a conundrum. Steer leads Villa up after many years on the bench and is rewarded with a long-term contract. Nyland was inconsistent behind a make shift defensive unit. Kalinić comes in in January — was not great, got injured, came back to find his spot taken, and proceeded to be terrible on international duty. None of them are clear first choices — and the competition is sure to be fierce. And everything could change in the transfer market.
I stand by my foolish prediction because I think Nyland with a preseason can solve some of his issues with communication and control of the defense. Plus I think Dean Smith will love his ability to distribute and start attacks.
3 — Mings’ Partner?
Presuming the reports are accurate [they were] — Mings becomes the top center back of choice. If the reports turn out to be wrong [they weren’t] — well then Villa’s selection problem doubles. The easy answer here is Chester. But — there are concerns over his health after playing through injuries in the Fall and Winter. Hause showed the ability to do it last year. And if he spends the preseason working in the center — he will grow (which is what Jedinak should have done if Bruce was going to use him there... but that is an old gripe).
After Hause..... James Bree? Then U23 options.
4 — The role of Elmo?
Ahmed Elmohamady continued his good run of form through the AFCON group stage as captain of host Egypt. Then the team was upset by South Africa in the Round of 16. So that stinks for the man who assisted of the first goal of the Playoff Final. But what is his main role going to be for Villa (and he did tell the press in Egypt he staying at Villa). He will battle against Frédéric Guilbert for the right back position or will be he utilized further up the pitch at
5 — The right winger?
Elmo can player down the right — offer crosses and defensive cover. I kinda expect the Egyptian to play here against the top Premier League Attacks that look to attack wide. If it isn’t Elmo, because he is starting at RB, Andre Green and newly arrived Jota are the two other options. Green is likely to be given the first chance at it but then again Jota has played under Dean Smith in the past so should adjust to the team pretty quick. Kodjia can slot in as well — though he plays a very different role when out wide.
6 — Midfield formation?
Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish. Sounds simple. Sure worked great in the Championship. But will it be good enough for the top division. Can Hourihane protect the defense enough to allow the the other two the freedom to push forward. Or will Dean Smith be forced to call upon someone like Birkir Bjarnason as a (second) protector... and who comes out. If you are yelling about the impact of transfers — I refer you back to the caveat at the top. Yes. Reinforcements may be coming.
7 — Will Captain Jack Shine?
The last time Villa were in the PL — Jack showed glimpses of the potential. The last 18 months or so — we’ve witness the young man take hold of this team and drag it up. Quoting the West Wing, “What’s next?” Will Jack have the ability to take on defenders at this level? Will Villa’s midfield and defense afford him the freedom to do it or will his game be forced to change? There is no answer to this one but to wait and see. I’m excited for it.
8 — Kodjia or Big Wes?
I think the Brazilian forward is likely to start the year coming off the bench. Villa need to be patient with him and make sure he adjusts to the country and league before demanding success out of him. Keinan Davis will be in the argument as well as a
9 — Youth on the bench?
“PLAY THE KIDS” — some people on Twitter. But actually playing the kids can be tough. The mental impact is just as important as the physical impact. Does anyone really want to see Jack Doyle-Hayes thrown out against Man City and eaten alive? All Villa supporters can remember watching Jack Grealish struggle at times but through time, patience, and a hell of alot of work — he came good. I trust Dean Smith. Andre Green and Keinan Davis should be around the team if they have a good preseason — or loaned out to the Championship in a situation where they will play ever week. Doyle-Hayes, O’Hare, and Hepburn-Murphy are the opposite — they should be loaned out — unless they have an excellent preseason. No defenders should be sent anywhere until some transfers are done.
10 — Patience of the supporters?
This is tough. But there are some brutal matches ahead. Villa are going from a league were supporters expected a win every week to a league where that is not the case. Folks just need to keep that in the back of their minds.