As we approach the January transfer window which will prove pivotal to Aston Villa’s push for survival in the English Premier League, and the end of a roller-coaster decade for the club, here are the top five signings (permanent signings and loans) plus a host of other notable nominees made over the past decade.
5. Tammy Abraham
The young striker has the whole package. He seriously impressed in his one and only season at the club and was a key cog in a campaign which ultimately ended in promotion to the top flight after a three-year absence. He ended last season with an incredible 26 goals to his name and became the first Villa player to score over 20 goals in a season since Peter Withe in 1981.
He scored on his home debut against Rotherham United and never looked back. His 4 goals in a thrilling 5-5 draw at home with Nottingham Forest will live long in the memory. His goals against the likes of Ipswich Town and Sheffield United at a low point in Villa’s campaign last season were vital. Also scored against arch-rivals Birmingham City in the 4-2 home win and the decisive penalty in the shoot-out in the Play-Off Semi-Final against West Bromwich Albion.
Abraham has an unbelievable ability to finish even half chances and is lethal in the box. He can play with his back to goal and bring others into play and built up a strong partnership with Jack Grealish, John McGinn and Conor Hourihane. On top of this, he is strong in the air. This is evident by the number of headed goals he scored.
Also saw his popularity increase after rejecting a move to Wolverhampton Wanderers in January, in a bis to stay and help Villa achieve promotion.
Chelsea’s transfer ban came at the wrong time for Villa as it would have been interesting to see how Villa would have fared in their top-flight return with a prolific goal-scorer in Abraham leading the line.
4. James Chester
The centre back’s influence on the club may be underestimated at times. A real leader in every sense of the word, Chester joined at a low-point in Villa’s history, immediately after relegation in 2016. At the time, Villa were known to be mentally weak and have a soft underbelly. The club was a revolving door and many players cared little about the club.
Chester has been integral in changing the image and perception of the club. Conceding soft goals was almost ‘normal’ at Villa at the time, but his strong defending put an end to that. He was among the club’s best in a mediocre 2016-17 season, then took it to a new level and formed a formidable partnership at the back with John Terry in the 2017-18 season. The Welsh international played in 46 games that season and was a rock at the back. Last season, he was a victim of a lack of depth, as Steve Bruce kept on persisting with starting an injured Chester. Dean Smith came in and stopped this but the damage may have already been done.
It is feared that he may never regain his abilities, but it was great sightseeing him feature in the 5-0 win over Liverpool in the Carabao Cup Quarter-Finals.
Known by many as Villa’s ‘best player in the Championship era’.
3. Christian Benteke
The Belgian striker joined Villa on Deadline Day in August 2012 and it is safe to say that the club got more than its value for the 7 million Pound paid.
Benteke almost kept Villa’s top-flight status in-tact on his own for each of his three seasons in Birmingham. He scored in his debut match against Swansea City and announced himself to the world in the 2012-13 season by scoring 19 league goals. His eye-catching performance at Anfield, in particular, deserves special praise. In that match, Benteke bullied the Liverpool backline, scored two goals and notched a back-heel assist for Andreas Weimann. He then went on to score his first hat trick in the English game later that season in a 6-1 annihilation of Sunderland.
The 2013-14 season was not as kind as the striker picked up a bad injury that kept him out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup held in Brazil. Nonetheless, he scored twice against Arsenal at the Emirates in a 1-3 away win on the opening day of the season, and scored an amazing overhead volley in a 4-1 home win over Norwich City in front of the North Stand.
Tim Sherwood was key to Benteke’s strong form in the 2014-15 season, as the team was built around the big Belgian. He scored against the winner against Tottenham at White Hart Lane and a vital hat trick in a relegation six-pointer against Queens Park Rangers which ended 3-3. He was also instrumental in Villa’s 2-1 win over Liverpool at Wembley in the FA Cup Semi-Finals that season and scored the equaliser in that match.
He was sold to Liverpool in the summer of 2015 and he has not been the same player since.
2. Tyrone Mings
The tough-tackling centre back initially joined Villa on-loan from Bournemouth in January 2019 and has not looked back since. He endeared himself to the Villa faithful and was a key player in the club’s promotion push, which included a club record 10 game winning streak. A natural leader, who is not afraid to get stuck in and do the dirty work, the versatile Mings can also operate as a left-back.
He formed a strong partnership with Axel Tuanzebe in the promotion push and scored in a thrilling 3-3 home draw against Sheffield United and in a 2-1 home win over Blackburn Rovers. Mings can often be seen screaming instructions to his teammates, organising the defensive structure. He is also great with the ball at his feet and is very much a ball-playing centre back.
He went off injured in the Play-Off Final win over Derby County which ended 2-1 but infamously went many hours after the game not taking his kit off, displaying his love of the club. It is hard to remember a better loan-spell, where a player had such an influence that Mings had. He also joined when depth was low at centre back.
Villa eventually signed Mings on a permanent basis from Bournemouth last summer in a deal that could be worth over 25 million Pound come season’s end. He has comfortably adapted to life in the top flight, even though some sloppy mistakes have been evident at times. He scored the equaliser via a volley at Old Trafford against Manchester United in a match which ended 2-2.
His great form and leadership paid off when Gareth Southgate called him up to the England squad. Injured at the moment, his presence has been sorely missed.
More from Claret Villans
1. John McGinn
The Scottish midfield maestro has been one of the biggest ever bargains in the club’s history. Signed by Steve Bruce in the summer of 2018, he immediately adapted to life in England and hit the ground running. His all-round game has endeared him to the fans, as he is not your typical modern-day midfielder. His non-stop running and energy are key to Villa’s success. He is a great runner with the ball at his feet and has a knack for getting out of tight positions, winning fouls and running with the ball, beating several players along the way. His tenacity and ball-winning ability may be his greatest assets.
He scored “THAT” volley against Sheffield Wednesday in front of the Holte End and the goal went viral around the world. It has to be one of the greatest goals ever scored at Villa Park.
Arguably Villa’s best player last season and scored his fair share of goals against the likes of Derby County, Nottingham Forest and Middlesborough, to name a few. The ultimate reward was scoring the eventual match-winning goal at Wembley in the 2-1 Play-Off Final win over Derby County. He was simply in the right position at the right time and the goal sparked wild celebrations.
His strong performances have since been rewarded by being given a new and improved five year deal by Villa. He scored the club’s first goal upon returning to the top flight in August this year when he scored against Tottenham.
A big-game player, with such an amazing engine, McGinn faded in recent weeks before picking up an ankle injury that will leave him out for the next three months, prompting Villa to look for a replacement in January in a bid to stay up.
Other notable mentions include John Terry, Alan Hutton, Tom Heaton, Idrissa Gueye, Ashley Westwood, Conor Hourihane, Jonathan Kodjia, Albert Adomah and Darren Bent.