Matthew Lowton

Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Aston Villa

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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.

[ MORE: All of PST’s season previews ]

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.

source: Getty Images
Villa’s new midfielder, Idrissa Gueye

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.

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Aston Villa: Spurs clinch Europa League (video)

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Aston Villa, having clinched safety with last week’s victory over Hull, had absolutely nothing to play for at White Hart Lane – and it showed. Well, kind of. With Villa’s form this season, it was rather difficult to tell if they didn’t care, or if they just couldn’t find a way to score…or defend.

It was to Tottenham’s advantage, though. Before 40 minutes were up, the hosts had a 3-0 lead, and were able to cruise through the second half, happy in the knowledge that they’d cemented sixth place and thus a Europa League spot. Or at least, they seemed happy. They didn’t try to throw away the win or anything.

source: AP
Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, left, and Aston Villa’s Matthew Lowton.

Right from the start, Spurs were on top, forcing multiple saves from Brad Guzan before ten minutes were up. The first goal came in the 14th minute. Again, Guzan managed to save, this time a shot from Paulinho. But the Brazilian was quick to pick up the rebound, burying it in the back of the net.

Villa, proving that this season, they often are their own worst enemy, doubled Tottenham’s lead in the 35th minute. Danny Rose sent in a cross, with Emmanuel Adebayor getting a touch on it. But it was Villa defender Nathan Baker that got the final flick, putting Spurs up 2-0.

Things just got worse. Three minutes after Baker’s own goal, another Villa player got in the way of the ball. This time, though, it was Gabby Agbonlahor getting in the way of Sandro’s shot, with the ball hitting off the forward’s arm. Jonathan Moss wasted no time pointing to the spot, Adebayor duly converted, and Tottenham had a 3-0 lead.

About the only thing of note the visitors managed was a shot from Fabian Delph, but the midfielder put his 57th minute strike wide. It looked like Villa were determined to bury this season in the past and move on, preferably with new ownership and possibly with a new manager at the helm. Maybe that’ll be what they need to finish higher than 15th, which is where they wound up at the end of Sunday.

LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Naughton, Chiriches, Dawson, Rose; Sandro (Veljkovic 62); Sigurdsson (Pritchard 83), Paulinho (Bentaleb 75), Eriksen; Adebayor, Kane

Goals: Paulinho (14′); Baker o.g. (35′); Adebayor (38′)

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand, Bacuna (Robinson 83), Westwood, Delph, Weimann, Bowery (El Ahmadi 45), Agbonlahor

Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. Hull City (Lineups and Discuss)

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For the fourth season in a row, Aston Villa find themselves in a relegation battle, absolutely needing a win at Villa Park today over visiting Hull City (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

Back when Villa beat Chelsea on March 15, fans felt confident that they wouldn’t spend the final weeks of the season fearing the drop. But with just one points from the six games following, the Lions are right back in the relegation battle, sitting just three points into safety. With games against Manchester City and Tottenham to round out the season, the side knows that this game against Hull is an absolute must win.

Yet Hull, while comfortable, aren’t entirely sure of safety yet either, and could use three points as insurance in case the sides below them win out. Last week the Tigers proved that they’ve got the goods, coming back from 2-0 down to draw Fulham in the final fifteen minutes. Will they now pile pressure on early, possibly condemning Villa to a season in the Championship?

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After losing 4-1 at Swansea last week, Paul Lambert has reverted back to a conservative lineup, putting out five defenders in a flexible 3-5-2 / 5-3-2 formation. Considering Villa needs a win, rather than a point, this could really backfire on the manager. Karim El Ahmadi makes way, while Ciaran Clark joins up with Nathan Baker and Ron Vlaar at the back. Matthew Lowton replaces Leandro Bacuna on the right.

Steve Bruce decides to go against family lines, replacing Alex Bruce with Maynor Figueroa at the back. After the comeback last week, the rest of the side remains unchanged, with Shane Long and Nikica Jelavić, last week’s scorers, remaining in place up top.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Baker, Bertrand, Westwood, Delph, Albrighton, Agbonlahor, Weimann

Subs: Steer, Bacuna, Sylla, Holt, Robinson, Bowery, El Ahmadi

Hull City: Rosenior, Figueroa, Chester, Davies, Meyler, Huddlestone, Livermore, Jelavic, Long, Elmohamady

Subs: Jakupovic, Bruce, Koren, Fryatt, Boyd, Sagbo, Quinn

Aston Villa 0-2 West Ham: Kevin Nolan brace sinks the Villa (video)

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Sam Allardyce will go to bed happy tonight, with the West Ham win over Aston Villa pulling his side out of the bottom three. The Irons are just two points into safety, but the victory is absolutely vital to the side. As for Villa, they’re back where they least wanted to be: fighting a relegation battle once more, a mere four points above the drop.

Villa should’ve been warned in the first half. In the 23rd minute, Stewart Downing missed a fantastic chance to put West Ham in front. Matt Jarvis put in the cross and the former Villa man, presented with the ball on a silver platter, somehow managed to put it through his own legs. Missing sitters like that – it seemed inevitable that the winger wouldn’t rest until he’d had his shot at redemption.

And it came shortly after the restart. Just three minutes after the start of the second half, West Ham had a 2-0 lead, thanks to a brace from Kevin Nolan. The first came in the 46th minute, when Downing got behind the defense to send in a low cross. Nolan executed a tricky little backheel, defeating Brad Guzan and giving his side the lead.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup Chelsea go top, Liverpool hammer Arsenal, big wins at the bottom)

But that wasn’t enough for Nolan. Two minutes and forty seconds later, he scored his second. The fault for this one lies on Fabian Delph who, rather than clear danger, attempted to take the ball outside of the area only to be met by Nolan. The easily stolen ball was fired into the bottom corner to put West Ham up 2-0.

With just over thirty minutes left to play, Paul Lambert made a decent attempt at jolting his side into action, introducing winger Marc Albrighton for right-back Matthew Lowton. Soon thereafter Albrighton sent in a rocket from distance, but could only connect with the far post. In what would seem almost farcical to anyone not supporting Villa, the ball then bounced out, hit West Ham keeper Adrian on the back, and bounced over the top of the goal.

And that pretty much spelled the end for the hosts. Allardyce pulled his side back and had them defending, and no matter what Villa tried (including the introduction of on-loan striker Grant Holt) they just couldn’t find a way through.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton (Albrighton 56), Clark, Baker, Bertrand (Bennett 74), Bacuna, Westwood, Delph, Weimann (Holt 71), Benteke, Agbonlahor

West Ham United: Adrian, Demel, Tomkins, Collins, McCartney, Nolan (Nocerino 68), Noble, Taylor, Jarvis (Reid 74), C.Cole (Borriello 45), Downing

Subs: Jaaskelainen, Reid, Armero, Collison, Johnson, Borriello, Nocerino

Goals: Nolan 46′, 48′

Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. West Ham United (Lineups and Discuss)

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For every team in the bottom half of the Premier League table, each match is a relegation battle – but West Ham’s visit to Villa Park is truly vital, as a win could lift the Irons out of the drop zone (watch live online on NBC Sports Live Extra at 10 a.m. ET).

West Ham have picked up four points from their last two matches, picking up a draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before beating Swansea City 2-0 at Upton Park last weekend. But that doesn’t mean they’re out of the drop zone just yet – their fellow strugglers are also improving, and so the Irons remain a point from safety. That likely means we’ll be treated to a display more in line with what was seen at the Bridge than the actual attacking football the side showed off in the first hour last weekend.

Aston Villa’s form may have improved in recent weeks, but just because they’re sitting tenth doesn’t mean they’re out of danger – that’s just five points above the drop. Paul Lambert, who entered contract negotiations this week, knows that appeasing the fans means improving the home record, and it’s likely the hosts will go all out to find three points rather than one.

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Last week, Andy Carroll was sent off with a straight red after an altercation with Swansea defender Chico Flores. Despite West Ham appealing their appeal to the FA, the three-match ban still stands, and Carroll with miss out. Instead it’s Carlton Cole that Sam Allardyce has put up front, favoring the devil he knows over new forward Marco Borriello, who remains on the bench.

Villa make two changes to the side that lost against Everton last week. Captain Ron Vlaar misses out with injury, with Matthew Lowton stepping into defense. Gabby Agbonlahor takes over the armband, taking over from Grant Holt, with Andi Weimann and Christian Benteke joining him up top.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Baker, Bertrand, Bacuna, Westwood, Delph, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor

Subs: Steer, El Ahmadi, Sylla, Helenius, Albrighton, Holt, Bennett.

West Ham United: Adrian, Demel, Tomkins, Collins, McCartney, Nolan, Noble, Taylor, Jarvis, C.Cole, Downing

Subs: Jaaskelainen, Reid, Armero, Collison, Johnson, Borriello, Nocerino