There was a time in the Premier League not too long ago when the sole objective of a club promoted in the Premier League was to stay there for as many years as possible. That was the gold standard of a new club, as most incoming clubs are on a tight budget and don’t have many star players.
– Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) May 27, 2019
They were expected to cause some surprises in national cup competitions and not much else in terms of league standings. All of these notions held true … until the 2015-16 season. Something seismic happened in the domain of the Premier League that shook the entire footballing elite of the country. Leicester City, coming out of a relegation-threatened season and with a new coach, won the final piece of silver in one of the greatest sports stories ever witnessed.
Leicester City. Champions of England. pic.twitter.com/WRwfysTn2N
– Leicester City (@LCFC) May 2, 2016
What the Foxes gang accomplished is something very difficult to do in this age of money and power in soccer. Yet another Midlands club has been inspired by that success and is trying to make waves of its own. FootTheBall looks at how Aston Villa intends to break the power structure in English football.
AMBITION AND STRATEGY
Villa is a founding member of the Football League and the Premier League, which returned to the top flight before the 2019-20 season. Their survival was in jeopardy for much of that campaign, and safety was only ensured with 17th place on the final day. That propelled the team into action, and last season they finished 11th.
Head coach Dean Smith recently spoke of the owners being “very ambitious” and “strategic.” To quote the man further, “They build a plan and then carry it out. All Aston Villa fans can feel in good hands with these owners. “So it becomes vital to know who they are and what their plans are. Villa is owned by entrepreneurs Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, who took over in 2018. Both are technical experts in their respective fields, who seem genuinely vested with the best interests of the club.
Smith was hired the same year and has been backed to the hilt in these three years with transfers to which we will return later. One of the coach’s words is central to his mantra of directing the club’s ambition. These owners are not just content to survive. They want more and better results: trophies, higher points and, of course, European football. The Premier League title may be out of reach for now, given the ever-continuing dominance of top clubs, but continental aspirations are very possible.
Along with the owners, the club’s CEO, Christian Purslow, is someone with a deep understanding of the game and how the financial markets work. He has spent time in Liverpool and Chelsea, negotiating various mega deals and his knowledge of the industry is certainly reflected in the club’s transfer policy. His work, along with that of Sporting Director Johann Lange, who designed some of Villa’s brilliant transfers, has put the Midlands team on a fully upward trajectory.
BACKING UP WITH MONEY
There are many examples of stingy and unflappable owners when it comes to the Premier League (* ahem * United manchester * ahem * Arsenal). However, Villa has certainly been blessed with one of the best in that regard, as is apparent from his two seasons in the top flight so far. Smith and Purslow, along with Lange, have been masterfully navigating the transfer market with 90% of the first-team squad currently assembled under their supervision.
In fact, nine of the 11 players who started their last league game against Chelsea have been at the club for just two seasons. One of them is Jack Grealish, who is at the center of … many things. Going back to their transfer business, all the players signed by Villa have seen their value increase exponentially during this time. To name a few: Emiliano Martínez became a starter for the first time in his career, kept 15 clean sheets and won the Copa América. Tyrone Mings has become an early caliber defender for the national team. Ollie Watkins made his England debut and was on the Euro 2020 squad.
• Penalty saves, including three in the semi-final.
• 𝗙𝗢𝗨𝗥 clean sheets, including one at the end.
• The winner of the Golden Glove.
– Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) July 11, 2021
All of this points to the fact that Villa is undoubtedly one of the best clubs to join the Premier League right now, due to Smith’s constant management and the general atmosphere of healthy competition and cooperation. However, it would be a mistake not to acknowledge the financial contributions of the Sawiri and Edens.
– Claret Villans (@ClaretVillans) July 14, 2021
Running a club with European ambitions requires not only a lot of money, but also a willingness to spend. That kind of endorsement is one of the main reasons everyone associated with the club feels so positive about the future. They know that the right people who care about Villa’s best interests are in charge.
THE JACK GREALISH FACTOR
Coming to one of the main reasons why there is so much talk about Europe and trophies and results in the club. Jack Grealish is undoubtedly Villa’s star player, with an uncanny ability to influence games. His straight run, bag full of tricks, telepathic passing, and eye for goal make him an all-round threat in attack. The Villa captain finished last season with six league goals and 10 assists before playing an impactful role on England’s path to the Euro Cup final.
𝟭𝟵 / 𝟮𝟬: 𝟯𝟲 games, 𝟴 goals, 𝟲 assists
𝟮𝟬 / 𝟮𝟭: 𝟭𝟳 games, 𝟱 goals, 𝟴 assists
– Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) January 24, 2021
Grealish signed a massive five-year contract last year and his words afterward provide more insight into how the club works. “” The way that [owners] We talked it was crucial for me to sign this agreement, their hopes that they have for this club were a massive factor for me to sign this new contract, ”said the 25-year-old, who speaks volumes about his future plans. Despite this new deal, there has been speculation that Manchester City want to sign Grealish this summer in a gigantic deal to bolster their next title defense.
Jack Grealish to Manchester City could pass ‘pretty quickly’
– Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) July 12, 2021
If Grealish leaves, which seems unlikely at this point, Villa has already made his move to secure a replacement. Argentine attacking midfielder Emiliano Buendia, signed from Norwich City for £ 38 million, plays the same role as the current captain and made strong contributions last season in the Championship. He scored 15 goals and 16 assists in Canarias’ promotion-winning season and hopes that Buendía will become a key player for Smith and company. From the beginning.
🔰 Emiliano Buendia was one of the two players to register double digits for both goals 𝙖𝙣𝙙 assists in the Championship in 2020/21
– WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 9, 2021
This kind of forward-thinking helps keep Villa in a good position as they don’t have to rely solely on one player, no matter who they are. Another thing that the club has developed intensively is its U-23 team and youth squad, which are among the best in the country. In fact, two of his brightest prospects, Louie Barry and Carney Chukwuemeka have also appeared for the senior team.
Highlights from Louie Barry’s CV at 17:
🏴 7 goals in 10 games with England U16
🇪🇸 He played in the Barcelona academy
🔴 Scored against Liverpool
Making a big name for himself. 😳 pic.twitter.com/1olvJDPFjR
– Dave Statman (@StatmanDave) January 8, 2021
Barry, signed from La Masia, has also scored a goal in the FA Cup against Liverpool and led the U-18 squad that lifted the FA Youth Cup. All of them are players who have a real opportunity to join the first team in the future, as Smith is not averse to giving young people a chance. Certainly all of this bodes well for the club and owners who wish to further develop this aspect of the club.
Villa has also brought back former hero Ashley Young to add experience and steel to the team as they try to impress again. Smith is hopeful to bring in a few more players this quarter saying: “We are sorry again that we go and see quality over quantity … We demonstrated last season with those we entered – Ollie Watkins, Emi Martinez, Bertrand Traoré and Matt Cash – that we were quite astute. Hopefully we can do more of the same. “
– Aston Villa News (@AVFC_News) July 15, 2021
That kind of practicality and knowing the tasks at hand is exactly what the club needs to fulfill its lofty ambitions. Nobody expects them to make a “Leicester” right away, but if they keep improving year after year, it certainly won’t be an exaggeration to consider them one of the best clubs once again.