Pre-season has come to a close and Aston Villa have gone through a massive squad overhaul. Aston Villa have sold 11 first team players for a combined fee of around £45.3 million while bringing in a total of 9 players for a total of £43.55 million. At the same time Adebayor is still rumoured to join Villa on loan sometime this week.
Aston Villa played a total of 6 games, winning one (Swindon 0-2 Aston Villa [Sinclair, Stellars]), drawing four (Braga Vs Aston Villa, Walsall 1-1 Aston Villa [Robinson], Wolves 2-2 Aston Villa [2 Kozak] & Nottingham 3-3 Aston Villa [3 Sinclair]).
Results on paper might not look great but the main concern for Aston Villa was to build up fitness and start to gel as a team. Most players admit that the team never tries 100% because they’re worried about injuries so results shouldn’t be a large concern.
During pre-season Sherwood stuck to two types of systems, 4-4-1-1 and a 4-4-2. In the first few games, Sherwood played a 4-4-1-1 with Carles Gil playing in behind of a forward, this was usually Agbonlahor, Kozak or Robinson. However as Gil picked up an injury, Sherwood reverted back to a 4-4-2 with Kozak partnering a different forward, in most cases this was Agbonlahor, Robinson or recently Ayew. On the wing, Bacuna often played on the right hand side with Sinclair on the other side. However, Gil, Ayew and Grealish can also play out wide.
The back 4 has been widely consistent, it seems as though Aston Villa will most likely start with Guzan in goal, Hutton at right-back, Clark and Richards as centre defenders and Amavi at left back. New signing Crespo can play anywhere at the back and will be used as a utility player should Hutton or Amavi pick up an injury. With Okore and Baker most likely used as back ups for centre-back pairings.
One of the most outstanding players during pre-season was Carles Gil. Gil was a revelation in Portugal even earning Sherwood’s praise. Sherwood admitted that Gil will play a big part this season after being left out of favour during his tenure last season. Gil linked up play very well, had great technical ability and created a host of chances for Agbonlahor. Another stand out player was Libor Kozak who returned to the first team after missing the entire 2014/15 season through injury. Kozak scored two goals against Wolves and looked very lively. He will have to compete with Gestede, Ayew, Agbonlahor and most likely Adebayor next season, but early signs show that Kozak is on form and will make an impact. Sinclair had a great game against Nottingham Forest and hopefully its a sign that Sinclair can take his goal scoring form to the game against Bournemouth.
From the new signings, Amavi stood out immediately. Amavi is a very attacking left back and he was often bombing down the wings providing some quality crosses. He provided an assist to Sinclair with a lovely cross during the game against Nottingham Forest. Amavi also showed some quality in defense but that will be an area where he will have to work at. Some of his last ditch tackles were good as well. Gueye is another player brought in to replace Tom Cleverly. Gueye held the ball very well and was a good all around midfielder. He had received praise from many Villa supporters as he doesn’t shy away from having a shot at goal.
During pre-season a number of young players were given a chance in Tim Sherwood’s side. The most impressive was Jerrel Sellars who scored in the game against Swindon and provided lots of energy in the back. He is a highly rated midfielder who has caught the eye of Tim Sherwood. Gary Gardner also featured in pre-season, but despite picking up an injury he did look solid and may play a part this season, amid fierce competition in midfield after bringing in Veretout and Gueye. Callum Robinson also played very well, he scored and and assisted a goal during pre-season, hopefully he’ll play a part but it might be best to off-load him on loan as I don’t see him starting ahead of 4/5 other first team forwards.
But there were also some poor performers in the side, notably Cissokho did not impress Sherwood enough and since Portugal has failed to feature in pre-season. Tonev often misplaced passes and is also one of the players that will be overlooked this season.
Currently, Carles Gil, Jack Grealish, Crespo, Gardner and Agbonlahor have all picked up injuries and may miss the first game of the season against Bournemouth
Overall the main concern was fitness and gelling the team together. Despite many players making a claim for the starting spot this season most Villa fans aren’t sure of how the squad will line up against Bournemouth. With our squad introducing 9 new players there may also be a few first team players that will miss out on the 25 man squad list for this upcoming Premier League season.