Norwich City's Premier League A-Z: Aston Villa
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There’s was plenty to like about Aston Villa last season, but Emi Buendia has now joined Jack Grealish in every conversation about the Midlanders – as Chris Lakey reports
Dean Smith: Talks a lot of sense. Doesn’t shout from the rooftops, just gets on with the job. A Villa man through and through, not that being a fan of the club that pays your wage is a guarantee of anything – ask Chris Wilder.
Cracking start of four straight wins, including that amazing 7-2 thrashing of then champions Liverpool. But inevitably it became a bit of a struggle at times and only twice did they manage consecutive victories. Inconsistent at times, but ultimately fairly successful.
Big questions: they've signed Emi Buendia, will they keep Jack Grealish? Can they play together, or is Buendia the Grealish replacement? There will be a lot worse teams than Villa, but they will need to add a bit of class here and there if they want to trouble the front-runners for Europa League places. Don’t expect them to struggle.
Jack Grealish. Without a doubt. Top quality footballer whose whereabouts after this summer will determine Villa’s fortunes. Not a one-man team – that’s just a lazy assertion – but they do rely on him a lot. And why not?
The aforementioned Grealish. But otherwise, they look settled: Dean Smith is probably not going to go anywhere in a hurry. Yes, John Terry may be tempted by a first management job somewhere but will know only too well the pitfalls – Frank Lampard and Sol Campbell are proof in different ways that name and reputation count for little.
They've signed Emi Buendia (just in case you've been away). Burnley’s Dwight McNeil has been suggested as a replacement for Trezeguet, a long-term absentee with a knee injury. Villa have also been linked with Celtic midfielder David Turnbull.
Bound to be speculation over Grealish, especially after the arrival of you-know-who: if Manchester City or even United want him, then Villa will want to start the bidding at £80m. If he stays at Villa Park, it will be a great boost pre-season. Ross Barkley has gone back to Chelsea after a loan spell which started well but petered out, after injury and inconsistency.
Hard to look beyond May 2019, when Mario Vrancic’s late goal at Villa Park clinched the Championship title. Mustn’t forget though that the following season, Villa came to Carrow Road and thumped City 5-1.
Dion Dublin, Andy Townsend, Peter Crouch, Grant Holt, Chris Sutton and Steve Walford among those on the playing side. Plenty of links with past Villa management/coaching personnel - Paul Lambert and Ian Culverhouse, Martin O’Neill, Steve Bruce, John Deehan and Tim Sherwood.
When Paul Lambert left City for Villa, it was hard to accept for some. When he reportedly wanted to sign Wes Hoolahan, it didn’t make the less-than-amicable split any better. Hoolahan probably didn’t help matters with his very muted goal celebration when he scored City’s opener a 4-1 loss at Villa Park in March, 2014, although he quickly explained it away: “I certainly didn’t mean to disrespect anybody with the celebration, and I’m sorry if anyone’s taken it the wrong way because I was over the moon with my goal.”