Who could prove to be unlikely heroes for Aston Villa next season?

With new signings imminent at Villa Park, let's take a look at the current squad and identify those who could unexpectedly play a big part in helping the team to improve further next season. I have selected five players that could prove to be vital, even if many believe their time could be up.
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1. Moussa Diaby

Moussa Diaby
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Despite his, on the face of it, impressive numbers in his first season for Villa, fans will tell you Diaby has been fairly underwhelming. He came to Villa with a huge £50 million price tag and started the season superbly. However, his form and confidence dipped quickly and he rarely performed with the skill, pace and flare that was seen in the first few games and during his time at Bayer Leverkusen. Many believe that someone with such a big transfer fee should be performing a lot better a lot quicker and maybe doesn't deserve more time to prove himself in the best league in the world. Is he really up to the standard? However, I believe Diaby will prove to be a vital player for Villa next season and will show significant improvements in his performances. Leon Bailey took two seasons to adapt to life in England and he was written off long before he became Aston Villa's star man this season. Diaby could prove to be similar.

2. Tyrone Mings

Tyrone Mings
Newcastle United v Aston Villa - Premier League / George Wood/GettyImages

Everyone knows what a painful season it has been on the sidelines for Mings this season following his traumatic ACL injury in the season's opening fixture at Newcastle. Mings has kept fans up to date with his recovery and rehabilitation journey following an absence from social media that had fans worried they wouldn't see Mings in Claret and Blue again. In addition, Villa added quality in defence with the signings of Pau Torres and Clemente Lenglet. Fans were asking whether Mings would get back into the team at all when he has recovered from his injury and he has been talked as a man that may be shown the exit door this summer. However, I believe Mings has been massively missed at times this season. His commanding presence in defence was a significant factor in Villa finishing the 2022/23 season so strongly and qualifying for the Europa Conference League. Without him this season, Villa have conceded a lot of goals from corners and crosses from wide areas where Mings would normally be to clear the danger with his superior strength and ability in the air. Should Mings recover fully and come back the same player he was prior to injury, then I wouldn't be surprised to see Mings alongside Pau and Konsa as a back three, potentially. Unai will certainly look to experiment in Pre-Season!

3. Jacob Ramsey

Jacob Ramsey
Aston Villa v Sheffield United - Premier League / Neal Simpson/Allstar/GettyImages

Another member of the squad to have a hugely frustrating and injury-hit season was Jacob Ramsey. Ramsey managed only 16 league appearances and only dix of those times saw Ramsey play the full 90 minutes. Following a superb campaign the previous season, Ramsey was being discussed as a potential for the England Squad ahead of the Euro's this summer should his form continue. However, a broken metatarsal suffered at the Under-21 Euro's last summer and ongoing foot injuries ever since has seen Ramsey have very little impact this season. It is also being rumoured that Villa will have to sell homegrown talent in order to meet FFP rules and regulations and Ramsey is said to be the one that could be shown the door should Villa need to raise funds. I for one would be gutted should that happen, although I don't believe it will. Ramsey himself has said he doesn't wish to leave and he again is someone that should he recover fully, is one of the best players in the Villa team. On his day, Ramsey is one of the most exciting attacking players in the Premier League and Villa are lucky to have him. Next season, I fully expect Ramsey to be back in the starting XI on a regular basis providing the goals and assists that caught Gareth Southgate's eye last season.

4. Alex Moreno

Alex Moreno
Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa - Premier League / Bryn Lennon/GettyImages

Signed by Unai Emery in the 2023 January transfer window, Moreno provided a whole different dynamic to the Villa team at left-back and was instrumental in Villa's improvement. His pace, pinpoint crossing and ability to get up and down the pitch down the left hand side became the focal point of Villa's attack. However, Moreno suffered a hamstring injury at Anfield in the penultimate game of the 22/23 season and didn't return to the team until December. Following his comeback from injury, he has looked a shadow of his former self and seemed to have lost a lot of confidence. Lucas Digne had been playing well in his absence and in the end became the much-favoured option at left back as Moreno continued to struggle to recapture his previously fantastic form. At the age of 30, Moreno probably doesn't have too long left to prove himself to Unai Emery but I believe with a full and injury-free pre-season he could return back to the player he was.

5. Emi Buendia

Emiliano Buendia
Valencia CF v Aston Villa - Pre Season Friendly / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Emi Buendia didn't play a single minute of Villa's historic campaign due to the ACL injury suffered just days before the start of the season. Buendia had been showing signs of his quality towards the end of last season and in pre-season last summer following frustrating spells at Villa Park. Signed as part of the 'Jack Grealish replacement squad' Buendia's ability on the ball was clear for all to see, but it was inconsistent and therefore frustrating for fans. However, with Buendia back training with the team following his spell on the sidelines he is another that will provide quality to the depth of Villa's squad. He is a much more talented player than Nicolo Zaniolo who will depart Villa following the end of his loan spell and with a pre-season under the genius Unai Emery, I suspect that Buendia will play a crucial role for Villa next season.