With a sleeping giant awakening and a young lad called Jack in the script, you could be forgiven for thinking this was some sort of fairy tale. In fact, the only tales told in this region come from our neighbours who constantly live in our shadows.
Sleeping giant Aston Villa is back. We return to the premier league this weekend after a three-year absence. But we are not just back for a trip down memory lane, and neither are we back just to make the numbers up. We are in it to win it.
Our owners have ploughed significant investment into the club, and that may increase further by the time 5 pm Thursday comes around. Call it pr or fancy sound bites, but the noises and the rhetoric coming out of B6, indicate we aim to do more than just achieve survival this season.
So the million-dollar question is, what can Aston Villa realistically achieve this season and what do the fans think is plausible in our first season back in the Premier League?.
It’s hard enough consolidating when you already have a core group of players that you only need to add too. We never had that luxury, so it’s hard to say with any certainty how this season will pan out. It will come down to how good our recruitment has been. And Dean Smith’s ability to mould them into a team.
The Sleeping Giants Pre-Season
There is a real belief amongst the fan base that we can achieve much more than just survival. Pre-season has gone well, and the football that’s been on display has been encouraging. No more than on Saturday when we took the scalp of RB Leipzig. It was anything but a pre-season friendly, and there were plenty of feisty challenges. And without a doubt our most testing fixture to date.
The positives are we came through it, albeit thanks to some world-class goalkeeping heroics from Tom Heaton who made his debut. This result may have dispelled fears amongst some of the fan base that we could struggle this season. But we shouldn’t get carried away too much on the back of this win. To throw some perspective on our survival chances this season. Huddersfield also won at Leipzig 3-0 last August.
The Premier League
The premier league is renown for the quality of players it attracts and for that reason, it’s something of an elite and unforgiving league. RB Leipzig might be a Champions League club. But if they played in the Premier League, they wouldn’t be. But I wouldn’t put them down as relegation strugglers either. So on that basis, if we can be reasonably consistent, we should be fine.
If I am honest, I would like to see some more pace in our final third, and a big target man, a proper CF, come in. We certainly have goals in us from all over the pitch, which is encouraging. But I think the final piece of the jigsaw is still missing and that is a recognised No9.
First Game – Tottenham Away
They don’t come much harder than this on an opening day. I would take a point now, but Dean Smith wants three every game. What a change to the old rhetoric we used to here churned out. Not many teams will come away from spurs with points this season. They need no introduction they have one of the best coaches in Europe.
They also have real quality throughout their team. On top of that, Spurs were last years Champions League finalists. So other than going to the Ethiad or Anfield on an opening day, it couldn’t get much harder. Probably an ideal time to play them and who knows, we may catch them cold. It’s painful to see how they have progressed, given where we both were a decade ago. But it should provide us with real hope going forward now that we have ambitious owners.
Aston Villa Team
In terms of senior players who are still at the club from our relegation season, Only Super Jack Grealish the man, not the boy and Jed Steer remain.
Tom Heaton is our new No 1 for me, sorry Jed you did wonders last season, and without your heroics, we would not have returned to the pinnacle of top-flight football in England. But it’s about levels, but you still have a massive part to play in Villa’s future, but for now, Tom is the best man for the job.
Frederic Guilbert is our new right-back and although I initially had doubts about him stepping up. He’s been very impressive; what a find he was, whoever found him deserves a pay rise. So Ahmed Elmohamedy will have to wait his chance to get a sniff and then grab it with both hands if he’s to dislodge our young French man.
Matt Targett is our new left-back he’s looked pretty solid during pre-season, So he gets the nod for me ahead of Neil Taylor who improved massively under Dean Smith last season.
Where do I start my partner preference, I guess.
It’s got to be Tyrone Mings and our newest centre back arrival Björn Engels. With the other three James Chester, Ezri Konsa, and Kourtney Hause pushing them.
Oh wow, something of a puzzle this one, I know very little about our new two additions Douglas Luiz and Marvelous Nakamba. Other than what I have seen from scout and youtube videos I have no idea about their qualities. Given what I have seen I would pick Douglas Luiz ahead of Marvelous. But I will be delighted to be proved wrong by Marvelous. Neither in my opinion are going to be match fit for Tottenham, so Conor Hourihane starts that game, even though he’s not a Defensive Midfielder. How do you leave Conor out?.
This area picks itself at present, Super Jack Grealish alongside Super John McGinn.
On his pre-season form, Jota has to start on the right-wing. There has been an excellent little partnership developing between him and Frederic Guilbert on the right-hand side.
El ghazi gets the nod on the left at the minute. Again he’s struck up an understanding with Matt Targett on the left-hand side.
Trezeguet can be a sub, for now, as we saw at Leipzig having quality come off the bench makes all the difference.
Wesley at the minute who else?, we know he’s not an out and out goalscorer, he’s not your typical No9 he’s more a second striker. But he does hold the ball up well, and similar to Jack, he takes more than one player away. Which, in turn, creates space for our other players to exploit.
Kodjia, for now, can play sub.
Kodjia, Taylor, Elmo, Chester, Marvelous, Davis, Trezeguet.
Obviously, between now and the close of the transfer window, I may change my mind on the starting 11, and subs, what with me being an indecisive sort of bloke it generally happens hourly anyway.
All I know is that since our Egyptian and American owners took control and started putting the structures in place to wake up the sleeping giant. Good things have been happening at Aston Villa. So I have no reason to doubt this will not continue.
What we witnessed last season does not happen by chance. For me, we started reaping the rewards of those very structures that were put in place. And it was only the start of an ambitious journey they’re taking us on. I believe in Dean Smith, and his brand of football and I think we will continue to improve under him this season.
I am looking at our chances without my rose-tinted claret and blue glasses on, or bias. We all know how difficult the premier league is, I have said all along I will take 17th place, and that remains the case. But because I genuinely believe something exceptional and unique is occurring down at B6.
I am bravely predicting a 12th place finish. The sleeping giant and once conquerors of Europe, the mighty Aston Villa are back. Some will say that’s a foolish and stupid prediction. Maybe, but there is nothing wrong with being positive at least until we have good reason to doubt.
Tottenham 1-2 Aston Villa