Who will be Aston Villa’s most important player this season?
Phil Vogel: Boubacar Kamara. Everyone who has watched Villa for the last few years has seen that the squad needed a midfielder to offer protection to the center-backs. Douglas Luiz is a really talented player, but has been played out of position in that role. If Villa are going to have a successful season, then Kamara needs to allow his midfield partners and the wing-backs the freedom and trust to go forward.
Liam Davies: Emiliano Buendía. Every Villa fan knows exactly what this man is capable of, and he is our record signing for a reason! Gerrard has given me faith that Emi will get more starts/minutes this season after his comments post-match against Manchester United in Perth. Keep the little man fit and I can’t see why he won’t notch up 15 or more goals and assists this season. I think he has something to prove, especially with how close the World Cup is and how bad he’d want to make that Argentina squad. Get him on the pitch, give him the ball, and let him do his thing.
Aidan Mifsud: Coutinho. He’s the star player that any team wants. He was brought into to add that extra level of quality. The expectation for him to be that player who will unlock defences with that one outrageous pass or a moment of individual magic is not unreasonable. If his mental strength is there to play, consistently, at the high level that he is capable of, then he could be the difference maker.
Jake Fenicle: Diego Carlos for me. He’s supposed to come in and be this rock that solidifies our pretty spotty defense. If he can be that, it allows us to be so much better in other areas. The jump from ‘19-20 to ‘20-21 was hugely because our defense kept the ball out of the net. We lost that last season entirely. Diego Carlos should hopefully bring that back.
Who will be Aston Villa’s top goal scorer this season?
Phil Vogel: Ollie Watkins. I know he misses chances more often than Danny Ings. But he also creates more chances. I'm hoping for about 15 goals in all competitions and I think that is likely to be the high water mark for any Villa attacker.
Liam Davies: Danny Ings. His first season at Villa was just like his first at Southampton - underwhelming. His second campaign with the Saints was when he really came alive, and I believe he can emulate this form again with his current employer. The added pressure of the number nine shirt and the ongoing battle with his fellow forwards for a starting spot will only benefit Ings. I can only see him thriving with the exceptional creative talent that lies behind him - especially now he’s in the prime of his career at 30 years old! 15-18 goals for DI9 this season. Watch this space.
Aidan Mifsud: Danny Ings. My heart has to prevail over my head which, based on last season’s outcome on numerous occasions, would only expect Ings to score a handful of goals when coming off the bench. In Watkins’ first season, as Ollie very often played the part of winger and centre forward, I often repeated that he needed a strong number number to play with him. So after my hope materilaized, I have to stick with Ings, even though it could be more from him feeding off the service from Coutinho,Buendia, or Bailey. How Watkins fits in could be interesting.
Jake Fenicle: Danny Ings. I started here with Ollie Watkins, but deleted that one quick unfortunately. Love Watkins to death, but he just hasn’t been that goal-scoring forward. Ings when he’s on, is just that. Plus he’ll take the penalty kicks when he’s playing I’d assume. So maybe that’ll add five or so goals to take his total past OW11. A big success is if they both reach double-digit goals.
Which youth player do you back to make an impact in the first team?
Phil Vogel: I think it has to be Cameron Archer. My other shout (not to steal everyone else's thunder, but Cole listed me first!) is Tim Iroegbunam...but I am expecting him to head out on loan to the Championship. And I think that will be good for Tim. It appears Gerrard is happy to play two up top and that tells me Archer may get alot of subs with 20ish minutes to go against tired defenders.
Liam Davies: Tim Iroegbunam (I said it first). The 19 year-old fits the bill for the defensive-midfielder role, and his few cameos last season showed just how capable he already is in the Premier League. Whilst we have Kamara (who I expect to play every game if available), I feel Tim will have his breakthrough campaign this year - a bit like Jacob Ramsey last season. Whilst he flourished when Gerrard first arrived, I can see Nakamba getting pushed out of the squad within the next year or two, making way for our young starlet in Iroegbunam to come through and be a major part of the side.
Aidan Mifsud: Even if Archer and Iroegbunam hadn’t been mentioned already, and they are both very good shouts, I would still go with Kaine Kesler Hayden. Matty Cash is without doubt the first choice right-back, but look at the cover that Villa brought in for Lucas Digne on the left. While Ashley Young is versatile to play as right-back, I do believe with all the rave reviews we have heard about Kesler Hayden he is being readied to step in when needed this season. He also signed a five-year contract last season, which adds to the sense that the club value his quality. Will he play much? Maybe he’ll get a run out in the early rounds of the Carabao Cup, which I believe will strengthen his standing as serious competition for Cash.
Jake Fenicle: Kaine Kesler Hayden. I’m all with Aidan on this one. I’d hope at this point he’s the second choice behind Cash, assuming Fred Guilbert is gone. Big fan of KKH during his loans last season. I’m as high on Iroegbunam and Archer as everyone else, but I just don’t know how many legit opportunities they’ll get in a crowded midfield and attack. If Cash goes down or is out for any reason, I’d hope Kaine gets the nod ahead of Ashley Young. Otherwise I’d probably have to finally write that article about Youngy. Really want to give Aaron Ramsey a shout here just cause no one else has yet. But I don’t see a big first team impact this season.
Where will Aston Villa finish in the Premier League?
Phil Vogel: 9th. I fear another slow start. And I have no idea what a giant break in the season will do. I just think Villa will come up just short of the European goal.
Liam Davies: I’d vouch for anywhere between 8th and 12th. Breaking into that current top seven appears such a difficult task, and whilst we have improved, I feel it’ll be a few more years before we can hit those European heights. I will optimistically say ninth - our first top-half finish since promotion (on a brighter note).
Aidan Mifsud: My heart pleads for me to say 6th, but my sensible, boringly realistic head says between 8th and 11th. I believe a lot hinges on how the front line click. If the goals are coming from multiple players than we could be looking at a race for a Conference League spot right up until the final weeks of the season.
Jake Fenicle: 10th. But just because that’s the bare minimum I’d be alright with. Another bottom-half finish would be a disappointment. Anything higher than 10th, if we can push 8th or 9th for that 7th place European spot it would be a success to me. The middle of the table is as crowded as ever right outside of the top six. West Ham United, Leicester City, Villa, Newcastle United, even Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crystal Palace. Those teams are the first that come to mind that could finish anywhere from 7th to 12th, so it’s hard to predict.
How far will Aston Villa go in the Carabao Cup & FA Cup?
Phil Vogel: Can I see the draw first? Last season the draw (and penalties) ended the run too early. Gerrard will go for it, I have no doubt. I'll say two quarterfinal exits...but hoping for more!
Liam Davies: The impending third round Manchester United away draw still strikes fear into me, but I really think Gerrard will give both competitions a good go this season. We got all the way to a final with a weaker squad a couple of years ago, so why not go for the jugular? Let’s go for a Carabao Cup title win, and a FA Cup quarter-final exit. Aston Villa’s first silverware in 26 years. Believe!!
Aidan Mifsud: I believe Gerrard will make the cups a priority. It’s a way into Europe and a sign of real progress. We are due a decent FA Cup run so I will boldly predict Villa at Wembley next May.
Jake Fenicle: I never have any hope about the cups until I have a reason to. All it is, is another opportunity for disappointment! The squad seems as deep as ever to rotate for a cup run, so let’s see if we can put one together. Just like with the table prediction, I’ll expect the bare minimum and anything better is a bonus.