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Premier League Team Focus: Aston Villa to spring a surprise or two this season?

After a 3-year hiatus away from English top-flight football, Aston Villa made a welcome return to the Premier League this summer via a Championship play-off triumph over Derby County in May.

Haven fallen at the final hurdle in their promotion charge in 2018, Villa found redemption this year, beating Frank Lampard’s Rams 2-1 at Wembley to reach the promised land of the Premier League.

It was a success that even the most ardent Villa fan couldn’t have predicted in late February with the club languishing in 11th position in the Championship, however, after an incredible finish to the season that included a sequence a 10 straight wins, Villa are back where they feel they belong.

Villae were the most prolific Premier League shoppers in the summer transfer window, and while survival remains their number one target, there is a quiet confidence among the club’s support that the Villains can also cause a surprise or two.

Click here to read more about Aston Villa in our detailed Premier League Relegation Predictions and guide.

Position last season: 5th (Championship Play-off winners)

Top scorer: Tammy Abraham – 26 goals.

Key Stats:

  • Villa (82) were the 3rd highest goalscorers in the Championship last season behind WBA (87) and Norwich (93).
  • Over 2.5 goals were scored in 74% of Aston Villa’s league home games in 2018/19.
  • Tammy Abraham had a hand in 35% of Villa’s Championship goals last term. The striker is now back at parent club Chelsea.
  • 4 of Aston Villa’s summer signings rank among the club’s 5 most expensive ever incoming transfers (Wesley, Mings, Targett and Luiz)

TRANSFERS

Arrivals

Trezeguet – Kasimpasa – £8.75m

Bjorn Engels – Reims – undisclosed

Douglas Luiz – Manchester City – £15m

Jota – Birmingham – Undisclosed

Anwar El Ghazi – Lille – £8.1m

Wesley – Club Brugge – £22.5m

Kortney Hause – Wolves – £3.06m

Matt Targett – Southampton – £14m

Tryone Mings – Bournemouth – £20m

Ezri Konsa – Brentford – £12m

Tom Heaton – Burnley – £8m

Marvelous Nakamba –  Club Brugge – £11m

Departures

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy – Tranmere – loan

Jordan Lyden – Swindon – free

Mile Jedinak – released

Alan Hutton – released

Albert Adomah – released

Glenn Whelan – released

Ritchie De Laet – released

Mark Bunn – released

Micah Richards – released

Gary Gardner – Birmingham – Undisclosed

Harry McKirdy – Carlisle – free

Tommy Elphick – Huddersfield – free

Corey Blackett-Taylor – Tranmere –  free

Ross McCormack – released

Matija Sarkic – Livingston – loan

Possible Line-up

Aston Villa possible lineup 19/20

Player to Watch

Jack Grealish

Talismanic club cult hero Jack Grealish is Aston Villa through and through. The 23-year old creative midfielder posted relatively modest numbers in terms of raw statistics (6 goals, 7 assists) last season, however his ability to knit play together and execute intelligent, cutting passes makes him one of Villa’s most dangerous players.

The 23-year old played more key passes on average per game (2.3) than any of his Villa teammates last term – in fact, his key pass figure made him the 4th most creative player in the 2018/19 Championship overall.

Grealish also has a real sense of occasion, and his habit of popping up with crucial goals in big games should ensure that he makes his presence felt in the Premier League in 2019/20.

The Season Ahead

A squad of strangers?

So far this summer, Aston Villa have added a staggering 12 players to their squad, while the number of transfer window departures has also already passed double figures.

While comparisons to Fulham’s ill-fated spending spree last year might be a little disingenuous, they aren’t completely without basis, and there will understandably be a fear that too much change could lead to disjointed displays this season.

Only 3 of the Villains’ signings, Tyrone Mings, Tom Heaton and Matt Targett, have previous Premier League experience, meaning the majority of their new players will need to navigate their way through tricky acclimatisation periods simultaneously – and that could in turn lead to some very mixed performances and results this season.

New Villa keeper Tom Heaton features in our list of Fantasy Premier League Tips 19/20 budget player options. Click the link to read more!

Derby vs Aston Villa Predictions

Replacing Abraham’s goals

As we touched on in our key stats section above, Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham was involved in 35% (26 goals, 3 assists) of Aston Villa’s Championship goals last season.

The 21-year old is back at his parent club for the new campaign however, leaving Villa with a hole to fill at centre-forward and in their goals scored column.

Brazilian centre-forward and club-record signing Wesley will be expected to shoulder most of the goal-getting responsibility, but despite promising signs in pre-season, transitioning from Belgian football to the Premier League could prove tricky.

Wingers Jota and Anwar El Ghazi will also be expected to chip in from wide positions, though neither player has made a habit of scoring regularly in their respective careers so far.

Midfield trio Jack Grealish, Conor Hourihane and John McGinn all have goals in their locker however, and it could be their efforts from deeper areas that make up the numbers for Villa this term.

Plugging the gaps

Aston Villa finished the Championship season with the second worst defensive record in the top 9 and the 11th worst goals conceded total in the division overall in 2018/19.

Villa kept their opponents out in just 26% of their league fixtures in total, and Dean Smith’s men shipped 2 or more goals in 18 separate contests between August and May.

A major improvement at the back was needed over the summer, and to his credit, Smith has overseen a considerable reshuffle.

After the club’s extensive recruitment drive, the defensive unit that starts Villa’s opening Premier League match of the new season at Spurs is certain be almost unrecognizable from the one that took to the field in the Championship Play-off Final in May.

An untried and untested rearguard could be in for a baptism of fire in North London against Mauricio Pochettino’s side however, and Villa’s new-look defence will have to gel as quickly as possible if they are to avoid a harrowing opening few weeks.

Hull City vs Aston Villa

Aston Villa Betting Tips

Conor Hourihane team top scorer – 12/1

The now departed Tammy Abraham was out on his own as Aston Villa’s leading marksman in 2018/19, though Irish international Conor Hourihane was next in line in the Villains’ goal-scoring charts.

Hourihane netted 9 goals in total for Villa in all competitions, taking his total to 20 in 2 seasons from midfield for the Midlands club.

The 28-year old has been in fine goal-getting form in pre-season, and his wonderful ability to strike a dead ball should heighten his goal threat considerably this term.

New Villa centre-forward Wesley will spearhead the Villa attack in 2019/20, though the 22-year-old is far from prolific, hitting double figures in a league campaign just once in his career so far.

With that considered, we think Hourihane can fire his way past Villa’s new signing in the goal-scoring charts this season, making him a cracking bet at 12/1 to finish as the club’s top scorer in 2019/20.

Click here to read more of the latest and best expert football predictions and betting tips.

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