With Aston Villa embarking on a new and hopefully more fruitful passage in their long and decorated history, many fans will harbour their own opinions on how they wish to see their team play next season under the stewardship of Villa’s new-look backroom staff and owner.
With the proverbial flashing lights of Euro 2016 slowing down most English club’s involvement in the summer transfer window, Villa have at least been proactive in the early stages of ‘silly season’ with their pursuit of Bournemouth captain Tommy Elphick with a deal reportedly looking set to be completed this week.
With the Midlands club in desperate need of reinforcements in almost every area of the pitch, today at Villa Till I Die, we have put together a team of players who we think will adorn the claret and blue colours next season.
With our starting line-up including current players who we believe should be kept on at the club as well as prospective players we think manager Roberto Di Matteo should be looking to snap up, we have constructed a side which we believe, can bounce straight back up to the Premier League at the first attempt in the 2016/2017 campaign.
*Formation – 4-3-3
Ali Al-Habsi – For us, he’s one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the country. Despite playing between the sticks for a Wigan side who unarguably had a defence almost as woeful as Villa’s clumsy class of 2016, Al Habsi was consistently one of the Latics’ stand-out performers and has yet again impressed this season for his current club Reading. Whilst not a long-term solution, with current Villa #1 Brad Guzan’s confidence completely shot, Al-Habsi would be one of the first names on our list when trying to find a new, reliable shot-stopper this summer.
Tommy Elphick (captain) – With Micah Richards’ and particularly Gabby Agbonlahor’s antics unlikely to warrant them another shot at being Villa club or team captains, for us it’s a no-brainer to take an experienced centre back in the mould of Elphick and make him skipper. With Clark or Nathan Baker, who enjoyed a solid season over at Bristol City last year alongside him, mentally-strong Elphick would be the perfect man to lead our Lions’ side back to the Premier League this term.
Ciaran Clark – Academy graduate Clark has been a mainstay in Villa’s first team for some time now and despite a turbulent campaign for Villa in 2016, the Irish international is more than capable of holding his own in the English Championship. At the age of 26, the centre back still has plenty of time to hone his craft and an ‘arm around the shoulder’ approach from Villa’s new-look backroom staff could be just what he needs to turn him into the player everyone hoped he would become 10 years ago.
Alan Hutton – Perhaps one of the more controversial selections on our list, Hutton is a player whose attitude has been impeccable ever since he was signed by Alex McLeish several years ago. Despite being ousted to the ‘bomb squad’ by former manager Paul Lambert, the Scottish international has quietly gone about his business at Villa Park and showed the grit and determination to fight his way back into Villa’s starting eleven. He may not have pulled up trees in the Premier League last season (what player has?) but of Villa’s current roster, we’d argue there’s not many players at the club that will show as much commitment to the cause as Hutton.
Jordan Amavi – Up until his injury which ruled him out of most of the 2015/2016 season, young French starlet Amavi was Villa’s most impressive player. Whilst defensively he still needs some work with the 22-year-old still in his formative years, going forward there’s no doubting the French Under-21 international would be a real handful for Championship defences. With several Premier League clubs interested in the left back, unfortunately the decision of whether he will line-up for Villa next season is out of Villa’s hands.
Gary Gardner – His stellar campaign on loan at Nottingham Forest last season told us everything we need to know. After enduring his fair share of injury mishaps, at the age of 23 we’re supremely confident young Gary is ready for a starting berth at Aston Villa next season. With life in the Championship seemingly coming easy to him, Gardner could become one of our most pivotal players next season as we embark on achieving promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt.
Idrissa Gueye – Whilst slightly hyperbolic and misleading, the well-known stat that Idrissa Gana had a ‘tackles per game’ ratio that often equalled or exceeded that of Leicester’s Duracell Bunny midfielder N’Golo Kante, it only goes to highlight the value he brings to Villa’s struggling midfield. Going forward, the Senegal international is certainly nothing to write home about but in a division where opposition players will arguably work harder to cover more ground on the pitch, Di Matteo could do much worse than employ Gana in a midfield role which would see him attempt to break up opposition play.
Ashley Westwood – From a technical point of view, ex-Crewe midfielder Ashley Westwood may be the best player Villa have in their ranks. The 26-year-old regularly tops the charts for the most successful passes completed on a match day and his ability to retain and recycle possession in the heart of midfield will still be a useful asset to have. Despite the majority of opposition sides in the Championship next year likely to adopt more of a ‘rough and ready’ approach when closing players down, Villa still need a cool head like Westwood who can bring the ball down and play the right pass under pressure.
Rudy Gestede – Whilst this 6-foot-4-inch centre forward didn’t quite take to the Premier League last season (he did net 5 goals however), we feel in his all-too-familiar home of Championship football where he has already scored 33 in 66 games, Rudy Gestede could become a real potent weapon for the Villains next year, should he be utilised in the right way. In the fleeting moments Villa, under Remi Garde, threw caution to the wind and decided to try a more ‘direct approach’ when attacking, the Benin international has looked in his element.
Kemar Roofe – We’ve waxed lyrical about this young Oxford United winger in the past and after a season where the 23-year-old netted 18 goals which helped his Yellows side achieve promotion to League One, we feel despite his previous with rivals West Bromwich Albion, he’s a young talent that could really flourish at Villa Park next season. Rumoured to be available for around £3 million, we feel a small portion of Di Matteo’s supposed £30 million transfer kitty this summer could be wisely spent to snap up this exciting attacking midfielder.
Jack Grealish – Off-the-field troubles aside, it’s pretty clear to most that young Jack Grealish is a player that should be plying his trade in England’s top division. When on song, the England under-21 international has looked unplayable in his relatively short career. There’s no denying that 20-year-old academy graduate Grealish has talent in abundance and a season spent in the Championship could be just what the doctor ordered to really kick-start his career over at B6 next year.