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Aston Villa season preview - predictions, fixtures, summer signings, starting XI

Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Aston Villa ahead of the start of the 2020-21 Premier League season.

Aston Villa can look forward to another season in the Premier League after narrowly avoiding relegation last term.

Dean Smith's side, who were ever-presents in the division before their relegation in 2016, are among the favourites to return to the Championship again this term and so will be motivated to upset the odds once more.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at the Villans ahead of the 2020-21 season.



How did they fare last season?

Aston Villa players and staff celebrate avoiding relegation in July 2020© Reuters

Just about well enough.

The 2018-19 Championship playoff winners went into the 2019-20 Premier League season with their number one priority being survival, and ultimately they achieved that.

It took an unlikely escape in the closing stages of the campaign, though, and Dean Smith will hope for a more comfortable relegation scrap this time around.

With just three games left of the season, Villa sat four points from safety in 19th place. However, a strong end to their campaign, picking up eight points from the final 12 on offer, sealed their survival in dramatic circumstances as they pipped Bournemouth by one point courtesy of a 1-1 draw on the final day.

Villa also made it all the way to the EFL Cup final during their first season back in the top flight, but they were edged out by Manchester City at Wembley.

The high point was undoubtedly securing their Premier League status for another season, while the low point arguably came in January when they were thumped 6-1 at home by Man City.



Biggest improvement needed

Concede fewer goals.

Aston Villa shipped a whopping 67 goals last season, a tally second to only bottom-of-the-table Norwich City.

Only Norwich and fellow relegated side Bournemouth kept fewer clean sheets than their tally of seven throughout the course of the season too.



Manager: Dean Smith

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith pictured on June 27, 2020© Reuters

An Aston Villa fan, Dean Smith has earned his chance in the Premier League the hard way by coming up through the divisions.

The 49-year-old's first job came at Walsall when they were nine points adrift at the bottom of League One, but he steered them to safety and then to their first ever appearance at Wembley before taking over at Brentford.

Smith was appointed Villa boss in October 2018 and took the club from 14th in the Championship up into the playoffs during his first season at the helm, winning at Wembley to secure their Premier League return last year.



Key player: Jack Grealish

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish celebrates on July 26, 2020© Reuters

For a while it looked as though Jack Grealish was destined to leave this summer, regardless of whether Villa stayed up, but the price tag on his head has proved to be too steep for anyone to prise him away from his boyhood club yet.

It is no exaggeration to suggest that, without him, Villa would have probably been relegated last season, with Grealish scoring eight goals and creating six more in the Premier League.

On top of that, the 24-year-old was fouled 167 times last term - the most fouls won in a season by a player in the competition on record (since 1998-99).


Summer transfer business

Ollie Watkins is unveiled by Aston Villa on Wednesday, September 9, 2020© Aston Villa FC

In
Ben Chrisene (undisclosed, Exeter)
Matty Cash (£14.2m, Nottingham Forest)
Ollie Watkins (£27.7m, Brentford)
Emiliano Martinez (£15.7m, Arsenal)
Bertrand Traore (£16.6m, Lyon)
Ross Barkley (loan, Chelsea)

Out
Borja Baston (free, Leganes)
Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (free, Pafos)
Callum O'Hare (free, Coventry City)
Matija Sarkic (free, Wolverhampton Wanderers)
James Chester (free, Stoke City)
Andre Green (released)
Kelsey Mooney (free, Scunthorpe United)
James Bree (undisclosed, Luton Town)
Scott Hogan (undisclosed, Birmingham City)
Indiana Vassilev (loan, Burton Albion)
Mbwana Samatta (loan, Fenerbahce)
Jota (released)
Orland Nyland (released)

Aston Villa total spent to date: £57.6m
Aston Villa total received to date: £0

Aston Villa net transfer balance: -£57.6m




Squad

1. Tom Heaton (GK)
2. Matty Cash (DF)
3. Neil Taylor (DF)
6. Douglas Luiz (MF)
7. John McGinn (MF)
8. Henri Lansbury (MF)
9. Wesley (FW)
10. Jack Grealish (MF)
11. Ollie Watkins (FW)
12. Jed Steer (GK)
14. Conor Hourihane (MF)
15. Ezri Konsa (DF)
17. Trezeguet (MF)
18. Matt Targett (DF)
19. Marvelous Nakamba (MF)
20. Mbwana Samatta (FW)
21. Anwar El Ghazi (MF)
22. Bjorn Engels (DF)
23. Jota (MF)
24. Frederic Guilbert (DF)
25. Orjan Nyland (GK)
27. Ahmed Elmohamady (DF)
28. Lovre Kalinic (GK)
30. Kortney Hause (DF)
36. Indiana Vassilev (FW)
39. Keinan Davis (FW)
40. Tyrone Mings (DF)
41. Jacob Ramsey (MF)
- Scott Hogan (FW)



Possible starting XI

AVLXI



Fixture list

Aston Villa will have to wait longer than most to get their season underway with their opener against Manchester City having been postponed due to their opponents finishing last season later than others.

A home tie with Sheffield United on September 19 will be their first outing of the campaign, then, before visiting newly-promoted Fulham later in the month.

It looks like being a difficult end to the season, with Liverpool and Manchester City back to back in April and Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in three of their last four games.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Orland Nyland catches the ball over the line against Sheffield United on June 17, 2020© Reuters

SEPTEMBER

12: Man City (a) POSTPONED

19: Sheffield United (h)

26: Fulham (a)

OCTOBER

3: Liverpool (h)

17: Leicester (a)

24: Leeds (h)

31: Southampton (h)

NOVEMBER

7: Arsenal (a)

21: Brighton (h)

28: West Ham (a)

Aston Villa's Trezeguet scores against Crystal Palace in the Premier League on July 12, 2020© Reuters

DECEMBER

5: Newcastle (h)

12: Wolves (a)

15: Burnley (h)

19: West Brom (a)

26: Crystal Palace (h)

28: Chelsea (a)

JANUARY

2: Man Utd (a)

12: Tottenham (h)

16: Everton (h)

26: Burnley (a)

30: Southampton (a)

Aston Villa's Trezeguet celebrates against scoring against Arsenal on July 21, 2020© Reuters

FEBRUARY

2: West Ham (h)

6: Arsenal (h)

13: Brighton (a)

20: Leicester (h)

27: Leeds (a)

MARCH

6: Wolves (h)

13: Newcastle (a)

20: Sheffield United (a)

APRIL

3: Fulham (h)

10: Liverpool (a)

17: Manchester City (h)

24: West Brom (h)

Harry Kane scores his first during the Premier League game between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa on August 10, 2019© Reuters

MAY

1: Everton (a)

8: Man Utd (h)

12: Crystal Palace (a)

15: Tottenham (a)

23: Chelsea (h)



Prediction: 18th

Keeping hold of Grealish would boost Villa's survival hopes immensely, but they still look short in other areas of the field - perhaps most notably up front despite the arrival of the exciting but unproven Ollie Watkins in a club-record deal.

It took a remarkable escape in the closing weeks of last season and the general standard in the Premier League this season looks to have improved, so they can ill-afford to rely on the same again this time around.

Smith's side will certainly put up a fight and will not go down easily, but we can see their 2020-21 campaign ending with relegation back to the Championship.


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Aston Villa's Jack Grealish reacts on January 21, 2020
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