It goes without saying that, going into the first game of this season, much has changed since this time last year.
The squad looks a lot more balanced, we have a manager proven at Championship level and us fans know what to expect from this league.
On the other hand, some things haven’t. There’s deadwood to shift in the transfer market plus expectations are extremely high.
This season, a sixth placed finish, at least, is a must. You get the feeling Dr Tony won’t wait long before giving Steve Bruce the chop if results don’t go Villa’s way in the early stages.
Nevertheless, I trust Bruce to get the job done like he has so many times in the past. I also trust our players, especially our new ones, to raise the standard on the pitch.
What Villa need to do in order to achieve that;
1. Give Andre Green a run in the first team. Green has been excellent in pre-season and looks a real prospect. Yes he needs to improve his delivery, but he’ll need game time in order to do so.
2. Fans need to get behind the team, whoever’s on the pitch. I’m pretty sure Ross McCormack doesn’t appreciate being called fat every two seconds. Yes it’s funny and he was crap in pre-season, but there comes a point where our negativity towards him is a reason why he’s putting in poor performances.
3. Get rid of deadwood. Our squad now looks bloated and players like Micah Richards and Tommy Elphick need to move on not just for Villa’s sake, but for their careers too. Also, although I don’t agree with the decision to let Nathan Baker go, if he wanted first team football then fair enough. Like Baker, there’s a number of other fringe players who should be sold if the right offer is made.
4. Score goals apart from Kodjia. The Ivorian striker carried Villa in attack last season, scoring 19 goals. In comparison, our second top scorer, the wildly incosistant Jack Grealish, got a measly five. When Kodjia was at the African Cup of Nations it looked like Villa were going to get relegated at one point. That can’t happen again, so Hogan, Gabby, and McCormack (if he’s still here of course) need to step up their game for 2017/18.
5. Improve team chemistry. A prime example of good team chemistry? Wales at the Euro 2016. The same fourteen or so players knew each other and the system so well, that when they came up against better equip sides, they won more often than not. Wales were solid at the back, knew who to pass to and at what moment, plus they had James Chester. Also, I would be happy if you told me right now that we weren’t going to sign another player this window. It can’t be good for morale if there’s a rotating door of players, especially loan players, coming in and out constantly. Also, why get a youngster on loan from the Prem when we’ve got one of the best academies in the Championship containing loads of hungry players of our own?
My Championship predictions:
The top six will be: 1. Fulham, 2. Middlesbrough, 3. Sheffield Wednesday, 4. Aston Villa, 5. Wolves, 6. Cardiff City
The bottom three will be: 22. Birmingham City, 23. Bristol City, 24. Barnsley
The top scorer will be: Jonathon Kodjia