Aston Villa’s survived relegation by the skin of their teeth last season and it could be another close run thing for Tim Sherwood’s side this year.
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After losing Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph to Liverpool and Manchester City respectively over the summer, Sherwood has had the heart of his team ripped out. With plenty of new additions from France’s Ligue 1 who are talented, but unproven in the PL, expect another season of struggle for the Villans. Last season’s run to the FA Cup final provided brief respite for the Midlands club, who are openly on the market as American owner Randy Lerner looks to sell.
The Birmingham-based club have a rich history, winning seven league titles in their history and a European Cup in 1982, but relegation battles have been commonplace in recent seasons although Villa are one of seven clubs to have never been relegated from the PL. Villa’s arch rivals are Championship side Birmingham City, but their local foes in the PL include West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City.
Best possible XI:
—– Guzan —–
— Hutton — Richards — Clark — Amavi —
— Westwood —– Gueye —
—– Bacuna —- Grealish —- Agbonlahor —-
—— J. Ayew—–
Transfers In: Scott Sinclair ($4 million, Manchester City), Micah Richards (Free, Manchester City), Mark Bunn (Free, Norwich City), Idrissa Gueye ($15 million, Lille), Jordan Amavi ($15 million, Nice), Jordan Ayew ($15 million, Lorient)
Transfers Out: Christian Benteke ($49 million, Liverpool), Fabian Delph ($12 million, Manchester City), Ron Vlaar (Released), Shay Given (Free, Stoke City), Matthew Lowton ($1.5 million, Burnley), Andreas Weimann ($4 million, Derby County), Yacouba Sylla (Undisclosed, Stade Reannais), Antonio Luna (Free, Eibar), Nicklas Helenius (Free, Aalborg BK)
Last season: 17th in PL, Runners up in FA Cup – Villa struggled massively and Paul Lambert was fired in February with the battle against relegation looking grim. Sherwood arrived and helped steady the ship and got the best out of Benteke, Delph and found a gem in Jack Grealish to lift them up the table with some crucial wins at the end of the campaign. They survived. Just.
Star player: Idrissa Gueye – The holding midfielder from Lille comes with a huge reputation and his displays in preseason have drawn rave reviews. Gueye, a Senegalese international, will be in the thick of the battle week in, week out for Villa and is likely to be influential if Sherwood’s side can kick on and move towards the top 10 this season.
Coaches’ Corner: The nickname “Tactics Tim” is perhaps a little harsh on Sherwood as he motivated Villa last season and did what he had to do in order to save a team, which was severely lacking in confidence, from the drop. Losing Benteke and Delph will hurt his chances of succeeding this season, but the board have given Sherwood money to spend and this will truly be his Villa side. A top 10 finish would be a great achievement, but expect Sherwood to be one of the favorites for the sack if they struggle at the start of the season.
PST predicts: Another season of struggle beckons for Villa, but they might just surprise a few people. Sherwood is a young, energetic manager and his side is full of players who have yet to taste the PL or are looking for a second chance to prove themselves. Villa should stave off relegation, but it may not be pretty.