Our team gives their predictions for everything Aston Villa-related.
Let’s jump right into it as Aston Villa travel to Hull on Monday for matchweek 1 of the 2018/2019 EFL Championship season. Here, we’ll give our predictions and storylines to follow closely at Villa Park.
Give us one aspect in the team you’re watching closely this season.
Josh Tonti: It sounds sophomoric, but I’m watching Steve Bruce’s ability to adapt this season in-game. His squads and consistent formation got so static over the course of a full season last year, despite the success. A little adaptation coupled with rotation should see Aston Villa squeeze a few more points out.
Dean Caffrey: I’m interested in seeing Villa’s ability to cope without some of big names that helped carry the club last term: Johnstone, Terry, Onomah, Snodgrass, Grabban.
Jack Nason: In terms of the aspect of the team I’ll be watching, for me, the central defensive partnership that is formed with James Chester will be imperative as it was so strong with Terry last year. Will it be Elphick, will Jedinak consistently drop back, or will we see a new signing? Also, who will hold the role behind them in goal? I think these two positions are probably the least clear going into the season.
Clayton Nass: I’ll be watching André Green. What can he do in his first full *healthy* season with the first team?
Joel Rawlin: I’ll be interested in seeing if the style of play changes. Last year we were too cautious and I think it cost us in a lot of matches, especially the play-off final. Most fans are critical of the way Bruce sets up and it’ll be interesting to see if our style changes now that the new owners are in. The pressure is on Bruce to get even greater results and I can’t see NSWE giving him as much time as Xia did.
Who will lead Aston Villa in scoring?
JT: It’s going to be Jonathan Kodjia, right? I think he’ll top the scoring charts by a decent margin, health permitting. I think he has an outside shot of being the league’s leading goalscorer as well.
DC: I think Kodjia will top the scoring chart.
JN: Villa will need Kodjia to be firing this season if we are to be up there at the end of the season and he ideally should be our top scorer. However, I think Green and Hourihane will contribute too.
CN: Kodjia will lead the team in goals, but don’t be surprised if the aforementioned Green is nipping at his heels.
JR: At the moment, I can’t look past Kodjia. He’s our only fit striker and the only one who looks like he can create chances for himself. Unless Villa get another striker in before the window, it’s Kodjia.
Give us a player who will surprise supporters.
JT: I think this is the season Birkir Bjarnason puts it together as a full-time starter. André Green will also dominate. Again, health permitting.
DC: Ritchie De Laet will surprise.
JN: As the others have said, De Laet looks to be an early “addition” to the squad that could impress. Perhaps the surprise of the season, however, will be whoever takes the No. 7 jersey.
CN: I’d say Alan Hutton, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him play every game, in 3-4 different positions. So I’ll go with Dean’s prediction, Ritchie De Laet.
JR: Henri Lansbury. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking but a lot was expected of HL when he joined and he’s not lived up to the hype. We’ve lost a lot of players over the summer and haven’t been able to replace them just yet. If Lansbury can stay fit, he can play a big part.
Breakthrough academy player?
JT: Again, André Green in terms of overall contribution from a young player. I think Mitch Clark might see the field a decent bit in a few different positions.
DC: Green will have the biggest impact, while Rushian Hepburn-Murphy will play a lot more than usual. Callum O’Hare might as well.
JN: The breakthrough player from the academy this season could really depend on how long Steve Bruce is in the job. With no release of squad numbers for O’Hare or Jake Doyle-Hayes as of yet, I worry they may once again be unable to make a fair stab at first team action. Otherwise, it would be one of these two. In my opinion, Green would have completed his breakthrough last season had it not been for injury.
CN: Green is the breakthrough young player without a doubt. However, a sneaky good season from O’Hare is on the horizon as well (I hope).
JR: I think it’ll be Callum O’Hare. He was in and around the first team last season, but never got a real extended look. This year, I hope we utilize more, especially if Grealish goes. He’s got a lot of potential and needs to be given games.
Last but not least: where will Aston Villa finish in the table?
JT: This is so, *so* hard to predict before the close of the window. I see no reason Aston Villa cannot win the league with Jack Grealish and James Chester on board, coupled with 2+ outfield signings. The league this year seems to be more open at the top. There isn’t a Wolves or a 2018 Fulham type of quality team, at least yet. However, there are maybe as many as 8-9 teams that can realistically win the title. My official answer is 3rd with Jack Grealish, 9th without.
DC: 6th providing we keep Grealish, 9th/10th without.
JN: I’ve sounded really pessimistic but now I would like to bring some optimism to the table and say 2nd. I’m happy that it looks like we’re going to keep our top players (fingers crossed).
CN: I’ve done it. I’ve talked myself into it. 2nd-place. It’s time for a return to the top flight.
JR: I’m going for a hopeful 6th. I’d love to go up automatically, but it’ll be another tough season. Unless we can get on a really good run from the start of the season, then I can’t see us challenging for 2nd. I hope I’m wrong and we win the league!