Aston Villa's 2023/24 season recap: Highs, lows, and future challenges

Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest - Premier League
Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest - Premier League / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

Aston Villa's 2023/24 season will be etched in the club's history as one of their most successful campaigns in recent times. Under the astute leadership of manager Unai Emery, the team achieved a remarkable fourth-place finish in the Premier League, their highest since the 1995-96 season, earning them a coveted spot in the Champions League.

Overcoming early setbacks

Unai Emery
Newcastle United v Aston Villa - Premier League / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

The season began on a challenging note, with Villa suffering a heavy 5-1 defeat against Newcastle United in their opening match. The situation was further compounded by long-term injuries to key players Emiliano Buendia and Tyrone Mings.

However, the team quickly regrouped and embarked on an impressive eight-match winning streak at Villa Park, which included victories over title contenders Arsenal and Manchester City.

Standout performances

Emiliano Martinez
Lille OSC v Aston Villa: Quarter-final Second Leg - UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24 / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

Villa's success was built on the strong performances of their core players. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, defender Ezri Konsa, midfielders John McGinn and Douglas Luiz, and striker Ollie Watkins were instrumental in the team's achievements.

Watkins, in particular, had a standout season, finishing as one of the Premier League's top performers in terms of goal contributions, with 19 goals and 13 assists, making him a near-certainty for Gareth Southgate's England squad for Euro 2024.

European campaign and domestic dominance

Lille OSC v Aston Villa: Quarter-final  Second Leg - UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24
Lille OSC v Aston Villa: Quarter-final Second Leg - UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24 / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

Alongside their domestic success, Villa embarked on a deep run in the Europa Conference League, ultimately falling short in the semi-finals against Olympiacos. The European campaign provided valuable experience for the squad, preparing them for the challenges that await in the Champions League.

Despite the disappointment of the semi-final defeat, Villa's performances throughout the season were remarkable. The team scored 76 goals, their highest tally in a Premier League season, surpassing their previous best of 71 from the 2007-08 campaign.

A standout performance came in December when Villa thoroughly outplayed Manchester City in a 1-0 victory, reducing Pep Guardiola's side to just two shots, the fewest in any of his 535 games in a big-five league.

Breakthrough talent

Morgan Rogers
Morgan Rogers / James Baylis - AMA/GettyImages

Young talents like Morgan Rogers, who arrived from Middlesbrough in January for an initial £8m, also made a significant impact. Rogers quickly adapted to Emery's coaching and established himself as a starter, operating across multiple positions and impressing with his maturity and versatility.

Financial constraints

Looking ahead, Villa will need to navigate the challenges posed by Financial Fair Play regulations as they aim to strengthen their squad for the Champions League. Discussions are set to take place between Emery and the club's owners, Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris, alongside president of football operations Monchi and director of football, Damian Vidagany, regarding contract extensions and transfer plans.

A new era begins

As Aston Villa prepares for their return to the Champions League, the focus will be on intelligent recruitment and adhering to financial regulations. The upcoming summer transfer window will be crucial in shaping the squad for the challenges ahead, with the potential need to sell players to facilitate marquee additions.

Despite the obstacles, Aston Villa's 2023/24 season will be remembered as a turning point in the club's history. The team's performances, the manager's impact, and the unwavering support of the fans have laid the foundation for a bright future.

As the Villa Park faithful eagerly await the Champions League anthem, the club stands on the cusp of a new era, ready to make their mark on the European stage once more.