Day two of the 20 Days of the Premier League series features Aston Villa, last year’s 11th-place finishers in the Premier League.
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Villa’s recent mid-table finish was the club’s highest in the top flight of English football since the 2010-11 season and their best showing since they were promoted in 2019 after spending three years in the Championship.
Aston Villa Preview | The Captain
The Lions were led by 25-year-old captain Jack Grealish, who has been with the club since he was just six. Grealish contributed six goals and 10 assists to his team’s totals and was the most fouled player in the Premier League, regularly using his silky-smooth control to float by defenders and advance into dangerous positions.
Grealish’s recent excellence for a team that was expected to be fighting against relegation has caused transfer rumors to float around English media, with reigning league-champs Manchester City presenting the largest threat. City is expected to tempt Villa with a £100 million bid for their young superstar before the summer is over, though this would require them to set a club record for the largest transfer fee while Villa could still decline the offer.
Villa got off to a flying start last year, winning their first four matches and climbing as high as second in the table; they announced themselves as contenders for European football by demolishing 2020 champions, Liverpool, 7-2 on the third matchday, and entering 2021 fifth in the league.
While the Birmingham faithful started strongly, the back-half of their season left a lot to be desired; they claimed 29 points from their final 24 matches compared to 26 from their first 14 and only had one match where they scored more than two goals.
The Lions finished the season with the sixth-best defensive record and ninth-most goals scored and are on the cusp of becoming a serious force, though they are lacking the quality needed to consistently topple elite sides.
Aston Villa broke the bank with a £30.5 million transfer for Norwich City’s former talisman, Emiliano Buendia. The 24-year-old right-winger scored 15 goals and had 17 assists for Norwich during their first-place finish in the Championship and still has his best years in front of him; partnering him on the flank with Grealish will change the complexion of Villa’s attack and allow them to fluidly operate on both sides rather than waiting for moments of magic from their captain.
The best news for Villa is that they did not lose any starters nor impact players and will be returning with all of their important pieces, assuming Grealish has not moved to Manchester by the time the season kicks off.
The only noteworthy departure came from former Chelsea legend and assistant coach, John Terry, who stepped down from his role to pursue a career as a manager after three years with Villa. His position has not been filled as of July 26, 2021.
The Villans have quickly rounded into a formidable side with international competitors, young talent, and a proven style of play. Given that certain “Big Six” clubs like Tottenham and Arsenal have been dealing with waning runs of form and internal instability and there are no sure-fire threats to take their places, Aston Villa is looking at a top-10 finish, barring catastrophic setbacks.
The club will have three “warmup” fixtures against Watford, Newcastle, and Brentford to start their upcoming campaign, before visiting Chelsea early in September— their challenge will be maintaining winning ways throughout the entire season, rather than dropping off after the new year like they did last time.
With the possibility of losing Grealish hanging over their heads, the Lions will be facing serious pressure for the first time in over a decade.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.