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Aston Villa purchased a lot of new players this summer - mainly to replace those who left. The comparisons are there to make, so let’s take a closer look at the new Villans and how they line up with the players that departed!
Tammy Abraham for Wesley Moreas
Where else can we start than with the departure of a record-breaking striker of whom we witnessed a joyous loan campaign in our final Championship season? The striker played 40 matches in an Aston Villa shirt, scoring 26 goals and contributing with a further 3 assists in his time, and was pivotal for the Villans as we were promoted to the Premier League. A player who quickly became a fan favourite with the Holte End will be a huge loss not only on the pitch but also in the dressing room. There is no doubt Dean Smith will have tried to make Abraham’s loan a permanent at the end of the season but with his club Chelsea in the middle of a transfer ban, it made the deal impossible.
His replacement, however, is a young Brazilian from Club Brugge by the name of Wesley. He also played 40 matches in a Brugge shirt last season; albeit 2 were in the Europa League. In this time, he picked up 14 goals and 7 assists giving him just over 1 goal contribution every 2 matches. Such stats from a young player should be enough to excite Villa fans, especially when he has plenty of time in his career still to grow.
Albert Adomah for Jota
‘Uncle’ Albert Adomah was a huge contributor in Aston Villa’s promotion push, and one of the core players who stuck with Villa throughout their 3 Championship seasons. Since being released at the end of last season, Nottingham Forest have snatched up the free agent – who Villa fans will forever be thankful for his service. Adomah played 119 league matches in his Aston Villa career, however last season saw his lowest goal contribution with just 6 (4 scored, 2 assists) in his 38 games. The loss of Adomah therefore doesn’t seem to be such a major loss.
Replacing him is a man whose transfer caused much confusion, disagreement and unrest amongst many parts of Birmingham. Jota seems to be a steal for just £4 million and helped us dispatch Gary Gardner – the 27 year old who the majority of Villa fans will join me in saying good riddance to. Jota’s best Championship season was the 2016/17 season, under current Villa manager Dean Smith at Brentford, where he contributed 17 goals in 21 games and was picked up by Blues a year later for record fee. At 31, Adomah was entering the end of his career, and so the introduction of Jota not only introduces a much higher goal contribution but brings younger and fresher legs for the Premier League return.
Glenn Whelan for Douglas Luiz
And what a replacement this one is! Glenn Whelan was pivotal in Aston Villa’s promotion – but for all the wrong reasons. After missing a crucial penalty which would have won Villa the game in October’s clash versus Preston North End, Bruce was sacked for his decision to allow Whelan to shoot from the spot ahead of many more experienced goal scorers. This sacking allowed the eventual appointment of Brentford manager (and Aston Villa fan) Dean Smith who reintroduced an attacking style of play to Villa Park. This new football was the start of Smith’s plan for promotion, along with several new January signings and a new captain (and fellow Villa fan) in homegrown talent Jack Grealish. Many Villa fans therefore praise Whelan’s missed penalty, claiming it as a turning point in what was looking to be a boring, ‘mid-table’ season.
Douglas Luiz on the other hand is a young, fresh, talented Brazilian with bags of potential just waiting to be released into the Premier League. Bought by Manchester City during the Pep Guardiola era, Luiz has been unavailable for the Citizens due to problems with work permits, which shouldn’t be an issue at Villa due to the fact we can promise at least 80% game time. Luiz has everything Whelan lacked, from creativity to certain game management techniques and will be a delight to watch in claret and blue.
Tommy Elphick for Björn Engels
Tommy Elphick began last season out on loan at fellow Championship side (and one of Steve Bruce’s former clubs) Hull City, where he made 18 appearances between the start of the season and the opening of the January transfer window. After being recalled, he made a further 11 appearances, contributing with just 1 goal from Centre Back. A player who was never really preferred at Villa, Elphick was released once promotion had been sealed and has since joined Huddersfield Town after their relegation back to the English second tier.
In his place, Björn Engels has joined Dean Smith as a Centre Back option from Ligue 1 side Stade Reims. An experienced player, having featured in an Olympiacos side who played Champions League football, the 24 year old stands at 6 foot 4 inches which would mean the centre back partnership contains pure height to defend set pieces – which was a struggle at times during Villa’s 3 Championship campaigns.
Alan Hutton for Frederic Guilbert
So, fan-favourite Alan Hutton has finally left the club after 7 years of service. One of only a few players to have stuck with the Villa throughout the tough times of our final few Premier League years and our 3 Championship years, Hutton never really had huge amounts of talent but won fans over with his devotion to the club and endless hard-work, as he showed 110% in every game he featured in. The ‘Scottish Cafu’ will forever feature in the hearts and minds of Villa fans, especially after THAT goal against Birmingham City in the 2nd City Derby at Villa Park last season.
Incoming is a transfer from January who was loaned back to his former club Caen in order to assist their attempts against relegation. My only concern with Guilbert is his temperament, after he picked up 10 yellow cards and 1 dismissal in last seasons Ligue 1. Clearly a more aggressive player than Hutton, Guilbert offers better cover for whichever goalkeeper is chosen between the sticks as he may prove to be more willing to dive into a tackle or two.
Axel Tuanzebe for Ezri Konsa
Also at the club last season on loan, this time from fellow ‘big 6’ club Manchester United, Tuanzebe formed a brilliant partnership alongside Tyrone Mings after the end of the January transfer window at the club for a second loan after his stint at the club originally ended in heartbreak following the 2017-18 play-off loss to Fulham. Without doubt wanted this window too, Tuanzebe has returned to his parent club Manchester United who stated at the start of the window that the player would not be released for a third season. Coming into the club however is another young centre-back who has also played under Dean Smith in the past.
Signed from Brentford for £12 million, Konsa offers another option in defence and this competition should fuel some great performances in our return to the Premier League.
Richie De Laet for Matt Targett
Another past signing with huge promise, this Premier League title winner failed to impress in his time at Villa park. Spending much of his time out on loan, De Laet was released after Villa achieved promotion via the Play-offs having spent the 2018-19 season out on loan to Melbourne in the Australian League and was played at striker for much of his time there. This bizarre positional decision led to just 7 goals in all competitions at the Australian outfit.
Coming in is a young, English full-back from Southampton with both Premier League experience and potential to grow as the 23 year old looks to finally grasp a solid first team place in England’s top division. Never first choice during his time at the club from southern England with time spent in the shadows of the likes of Ryan Bertrand, Matt Targett shows promise in attacking plays as well as his defensive duties – achieving 3 assists and 1 goal in his 16 appearances last season in red and white.
Ross McCormack for Trezeguet
Another player who never really reached expectations was Ross McCormack who came to Villa with the impression that he was a prolific goal-scorer having made 28 goal contributions in his 45 appearances for Fulham in the 2015/16 season before moving to Nottingham Forest where he played just 7 games. After moving to the Midlands to play in Claret and Blue, McCormack’s goals per game ratio dropped as he only scored 3 and assisted 1 in 20 games in his opening campaign in the Championship.
This performance was not enough to please managers such as Steve Bruce and Dean Smith, who decided he was better out on loan at various clubs including Melbourne FC and Motherwell. With a goal contribution of 37 in 65 league games for previous club Kasimpasa, Trezeguet also arrives with similar hope and promise. As a winger however, more of Trezeguet’s goal contribution come from assists and so he will be hoping the likes of Grealish and Wesley can pounce onto his crosses and score some important goals.
Mark Bunn for Tom Heaton
Age wise, this swap is almost a like-for-like replacement, as 34 year old Mark Bunn leaves Villa Park to be replaced by a 33 year old Tom Heaton from Burnley. Arriving from Norwich in 2015, Bunn made under 20 appearances in his entire stint at the club. Comparing this to the 19 games Heaton started as Burnley captain last season alone, its not hard to see why the new signing arrives with so much hype and excitement. Clearly better with than without him, Burnley finished 15th under Sean Dyche last season and Tom Heaton can stick out this season in the Claret and Blue of another team.
Mile Jedinak for Marvelous Nakamba
Jedinak was a staple for Aston Villa throughout his time at the club. Although not always a first choice centre midfielder, the Australian stuck with the Villa throughout our time in the English second division collated 79 league appearances in claret and blue after his arrival from Crystal Palace in 2016. The versatility he offered was often utilised – especially under Steve Bruce – who often played him along the back line as well as in a deep midfield role.
On the other hand, Marvelous Nakamba signs from Brugge with not much expectation or knowledge from fans. From the same club as striker Wesley, it is almost definite that this central midfielder will spend the season as back up to Douglas Luiz. Both similar players, Nakamba seems to offer less skilfulness but more defensive support to the back line.