It’s almost time. Just days until the dawn of a Premier League season. What constitutes a successful season for the claret and blues?
As we anxiously await for Saturday’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur, the brain is kicking about on thoughts of the new season. After an exciting summer full of £100-million+ spending on player transfers and successful pre-season fixtures, expectations are both high and low at the same time.
Some would consider anything above 18th an unmitigated success.
Others hope and expect a finish somewhere closer into the 8th-13th range. In truth – talent wise on paper – Aston Villa are much closer to the top-half than many realize. The hiccup remains, however, experience. These 11 (maybe more after Deadline Day) new players have barely kicked a ball to each other before. Even the ‘experienced’ ones in the first-team haven’t been in claret and blue kits for too many years. In addition, all only have a half season under manager Dean Smith.
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We shall see that first hand when Villa travel to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday. Spurs, Champions League runners-up, are a well drilled and prepared team under manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Most of the team’s spine (think: Lloris, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Kane) have been playing and winning together for five+ years.
Villa can’t build that continuity overnight. It is the hopes of everyone that this summer’s transfer window can be the beginning of a solidified future under stalwart young players like Jack Grealish, John McGinn, Ezri Konsa, Wesley Moraes, Douglas Luiz, and so many others.
With that being said, by what measures should we define success this season? I outline three keys I will be paying attention to.
1. Don’t Even Think About Relegation
The parity between teams 3 through 20 in the league is closer than ever.
Realistically, we’re looking at eleven clubs fighting to remain out of three relegation spots when you exclude the ‘big six’, Leicester City, Everton, and Wolves. I think most would agree those nine are safe barring the extreme.
If Villa can play a full season without being near the drop zone, I would call that a small and important success.
2. Realize Growth As The Season Progresses
It could be rough in the early fixtures, and that’s okay. Let’s see progress under Dean Smith as the season moves along and the new transfers gain experience together. Not everyone is going to click right away.
Invariably, some will fail on the pitch.
Let’s see a play-style vision from which to build upon.
3. Give Us A Quarter-Finals Cup Run
Steve Bruce won three cup matches in four domestic tournaments.
Is it too much to ask that we see at least one quarter-finals run in either cup competition? Villa certainly have the depth for it now. There are no excuses for the club to fail in either tournament as they hilariously have in recent years.