Assessing Aston Villa’s outside shot at European football

Over the years there have been many shocks in the Premier League. From Leicester City defying all football odds at 5000/1 to Liverpool’s unbeaten season ending with a 3-0 thrashing away to Watford. Too many times sides get overlooked and written off without a ball being kicked. At Villa Park fans are heaping on the praise for manager Dean Smith, who enters his third season of Premier League football in charge by making some respectable transfers. Tricky winger Leon Bailey looks set to trade Leverkusen for the West Midlands for a fee in the region of £30 million, on top of Emiliano Buendía arriving from newly promoted Norwich City. If these new signings hit the ground running and if Jack Grealish sticks around, we see Aston Villa as having an outside chance of securing European football in some capacity – here’s why.

Potent Attack

After seeing how skipper Jack Grealish has flourished since his renaissance in the Premier League, the rest of the Villa attackers will surely be inspired to emulate his success. Since adopting his sobriquet from the Villa faithful, ‘Super Jack’ has been in mercurial form, at times carrying the Villains when relegation loomed eerily over them. However, the new recruits they have brought in, coupled with the goalscoring contributions of Ollie Watkins, who bagged 14 in his debut season, means goals will hardly be in short supply for Smith’s men.

Experienced Players

Villa owner Wes Edens has certainly had his cheque book at the ready throughout this summer. He has been determined to secure Villa’s status as an elite club and with the players they currently have, the foundations are slowly being laid. They have a squad with a great mentality and their survival on the final day of the 2019-20 season certainly emphasised this. Since then, they have added significant experience by resigning Ashley Young, who has won league titles with Manchester United and Inter Milan, whilst also being capped 39 times for England, as well as Emi Martinez who enjoyed success this summer with Argentina to end their 28-year trophy drought.

Squad depth

Since establishing themselves as a Premier League club, Villa have felt the full force of the injuries and fatigue associated with the top flight. After being forced into an emergency loan for a 37-year-old Pepe Reina in their first season back from the Championship, Smith quickly realised the sides who regularly top the bookies’ football predictions to win have significant strength in depth. Their new signings, plus full fitness to John McGinn and Douglas Luiz in midfield bolsters and revitalises the ranks and makes them resolute for another long campaign.

Less genuine competition

When you examine the Premier League table, a lot of the sides that have finished slightly below those elusive top six places bar West Ham United are either in a transitional period or don’t have the same quality as Villa at their best. Tottenham have a new manager in Nuno Espírito Santo whereas Arsenal endured their worst ever finish in a Premier League season. We suspect that if Villa can build a surge of momentum from their favourable early fixtures, which include trips to newly promoted Watford and home ties against Newcastle United and Brentford, they could defy all the odds and start their next campaign with some lucrative European competition.

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