My Prediction at the beginning of season for Aston Villa: 11th
Final table position: 15th
Aston Villa’s season can be summarized in one word: injuries. It’s incredible how many times we saw them on top of Physioroom’s Injury Table – reaching double digit concerns at times. It’s a bit surprising to me to see how many experts consider their season an utter failure. Yes, they played poorly. Yes, they were only five points above the relegation zone. But can you really blame Paul Lambert? When your two best strikers are out for the season, there is only so much you can do.
Christian Benteke, Libor Kozak, Ron Vlaar, and Gabby Agbonlahor all missed extended time through injuries and winning with a cheap, injured squad is harder than it seems. Lambert had some strong words towards the end of season and I agree with him - “staying up is one of the greatest things [he’s] done”. The final verdict: four spots behind the predicted after a series of season-ending injuries should give Paul Lambert another year on the job.
The biggest concern for Villa this season was that their new signings didn’t really work out. Bulgarian youngster Aleksander Tonev only started six games and failed to live up to expectations. Striker Nicklas Helenius wasn’t even in the game squad after Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak went down. Helenius is not expected to be a part of Villa’s squad next season, according to his agent. Antonio Luna wasn’t much better. They’ll need better luck with this summer’s transfers.
Likely Departures: Marc Albrighton(free), Nicklas Helenius(unknown), Ryan Bertrand(returns to Chelsea)
Players on the rise
There are many players that Villa fans should be excited about. Even though Bacuna was inconsistent, there were games where he looked like a poor man’s Garerth Bale – attacking down the flank with pace and scoring free kicks David Beckham would be proud of (Bacuna’s goal is at 1:10). If Bacuna can become consistent, he could be a star in this league.
Christian Benteke – There is no doubt in my mind Benteke will be a great Premier League striker if he can remain healthy.
Fabian Delph – finally a solid and consistent season for Villa. Delph should have been on the plane to Brazil but he should use the snub as motivation and he will be a major piece of Villa’s Premier League season next year.
Ron Vlaar – Villa goes as Vlaar goes. He is a premier defender who can single handedly change a game. Vlaar is expected to be a big part of the Netherlands’ World Cup squad this summer and there is no reason his game declines next year.
Needs: Playmaker, Winger, Left Back, Reserve Goalkeeper
Last year, I said Villa need to focus on finding a playmaker, a winger, and a left back. 12 months later, nothing has changed. Villa lack creativity and really need someone to create chances. Gabby Agbonlahor is good but can’t seem to stay healthy week in and week out and needs help getting the ball into the box. A natural 10 midfielder is needed as well as speed down the flanks. Aleksander Tonev just isn’t good enough for the Premier League and the club just let Marc Albrighton leave. That should be their top priority. They also need to address the left back position. Villa had Ryan Bertrand on loan from Chelsea at left-back for the second half of the season but they need to find someone at the position permanently.
The problem is, Villa’s owner is not one that likes to spend. Fans are currently urging him to sell the club, and it seems more and more likely that will happen. Villa’s activity in the transfer market will strongly depend on whether they’re sold. Another decision that needs to be made is whether Paul Lambert will be given another year in charge. This is also dependent on ownership. It’s a very important summer for Aston Villa, and it all starts at the top.