A Season In Review: Aston Villa

In this series of 20 articles, we take a look back at the Premier League season, focusing on each team individually. We take a look at transfer window activity, managerial changes, and key points throughout the season.

Check out the first edition of this series, where I focused on Arsenal, here!

Transfer Windows

Aston Villa sold a fair few players during their transfer windows, but no first-team players departed. Matt Target left for Newcastle, and Danny Ings also left for a Premier League club, this time West Ham. Exciting young prospect Carney Chukwuemeka left for Chelsea.

Other than those 4, there were no real big losses that Aston Villa had to deal with, meaning they just had to strengthen their squad, which they did.

Jan Bednarek joined on loan from Southampton, whilst Boubacar Kamara arrived on a free transfer after previously playing for Marseille. Alex Moreno joined from Real Betis, Leander Dendoncker made the switch from Wolves, and exciting young centre forward Jhon Duran arrived from the MLS.

Villa also spent big money on two more signings. They signed Phillipe Coutinho from Barcelona to add to their creative assets, whilst bolstering their defensive capabilities with the signing of Diego Carlos.

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Overall, Villa made some good purchases. They did not sell many first-team players, and so all they had to do was bolster what they already had. They brought in players with Premier League experience, some youth, and some more experienced players. All in all, a very good transfer window.

Managerial Changes

The managerial change Aston Villa faced is, potentially, what changed their season entirely. Life under Steven Gerrard did not go well. Just 11 games into the season, Villa and Gerrard had only managed two wins, three draws, and six losses, leaving them hovering just above the relegation zone in 17th.

The board decided to take action, and just days after losing against Fulham 3-0, Gerrard faced the boot. The manager-less side then impressed in a 4-0 home win against Brentford, showing that the players were not the issue, it was the manager instead.

After a 4-0 loss against Newcastle, the board appointed former Arsenal manager Unai Emery. The rest is history, as he guided the club to a finish in the top 7, and gave Aston Villa European football once again.

This managerial decision worked wonders. Under Gerrard, throughout the season, there was a real chance of them being in a gruelling relegation battle. Instead, Emery transformed them, and their fortunes, rocketing them up the table.

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Key Games

The 3-0 loss against Fulham can be seen as a key game, with it being the game that Gerrard got sacked due to. But one of their key games has to be Emery’s first game in charge. Tasked with a big home game against an inform United side.

Villa did not seem fazed by their opponents, however, as they ran riot in the first 15 minutes, racing into a 2-0 lead. They kept Man United quiet for most of the game and even gave them a helping hand when Jacob Ramsey put through his own net.

After three bad results on the bounce in the middle of February, Emery’s good form looked to by dying off, until they faced Everton. 2 second-half goals guided them to a 2-0 win, and since then, they went on a 10-game unbeaten run, ending with a 1-0 loss against top 4 chasers Man United.

The game against Everton seemed to be the turning point for Villa. It spurred them on and gave them a good chance of achieving a European spot, which they did in the end.

Cup Competitions

Carabao Cup

Aston Villa kicked off their Carabao Cup journey with a trip to League One side Bolton Wanderers. They fielded a very strong side but went behind to a Dion Charles goal after 24 minutes.

Bolton’s lead was short-lived, however, as Douglas Luiz equalised 12 minutes later. There were no more goals until the 63rd minute, when Danny Ings netted a penalty to Villa, giving them the lead.

Digne extended that lead 3 minutes later, before Leon Bailey made sure of the result, making it 4-1 with 3 minutes to go. Villa advanced, and their reward was yet another away game, this time against fellow Premier League team Man United.

There were no goals in the first half, but the second half exploded into light and turned the game into a real contest. Ollie Watkins gave Villa the lead 3 minutes after the restart, but Martial hit back just a minute later.

Dalot put through his own net with half an hour to play to give Villa the lead again, but main man Marcus Rashford equalised for United for the second time with 23 minutes left to play. Bruno Fernandes gave United the lead for the first time with 12 minutes to go, and Scott McTominay made sure of the result in the 91st minute, condemning Villa to a 4-2 loss.

It was a tough tie for Villa and had they come up against a lower-ranked team, they may have made it further, but it was not meant to be.

FA Cup

Villa could not use the same excuse of a tough opponent in their FA Cup game. They entered the third round and got given a very favourable home tie against League Two opposition Stevenage.

Villa did not exactly field a weak team, with Coutinho, Ings, Bailey and Douglas Luiz all starting. Morgan Sanson gave Villa the lead, but could not find a way past a resilient Stevenage defence.

They were made to rue their luck in front of goal, as Jamie Reid netted an 88th-minute penalty to equalise, and Dean Campbell sent the away end into raptures, scoring the winner into the 90th minute, sending Stevenage through, and knocking Villa out in the third round.

It was an absolutely abysmal showing in the FA Cup for Villa, especially considering the strong team they fielded. They could have gone far in this competition and instead got knocked out in their first game.

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Season Overall

Overall, the season has been a resounding success for Villa, in the end anyway. Had Gerrard stayed, it could have been a different story. They could have been in a relegation fight all season. Instead, Emery had them fighting for Europe, and it is exciting to see how far they can go next season.

They could have done much better in the cup competitions, especially in the FA Cup. It is inexcusable that they got knocked out by a League Two side at home. They need to do better in these competitions next season and try to win some silverware.

The transfers they brought in did well at times, some could have performed better, but most were brought in to give them the squad depth that helped them so much throughout the season.

Villa needs to crack on now. They need to invest a bit more into some key areas and keep hold of their assets. Ollie Watkins could be a massive player for them next season if they keep hold of him, and Douglas Luiz performed out of his skin at times last season. Is Europa Conference League glory on the cards next season? Who knows.

Keep an eye out for the next issues of this Season In Review, which will feature Bournemouth!

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