The 2016/17 campaign has been an underwhelming one at Villa Park on the whole, with Aston Villa one of the favourites for promotion prior the start of the season back in August.
The Midlands outfit moved quickly to bring in players in the summer, with the only surprise being how long it took the relegated side to get going. Villa suffered a dismal start to the season under Roberto Di Matteo, which saw them win just once in twelve Championship games. Steve Bruce was brought in by Tony Xia in October, the man who led Hull City to promotion last season, and he has certainly made an impact.
Bruce had a good start to life at Villa Park, losing just twice in thirteen games. It looked as though The Villains had turned a corner. It is hard to put a finger on what went wrong from the start of January, but the results were all too familiar for the Villa faithful, a run which saw Bruce’s men pick up just one point in eight games.
It is certainly not a season to dwell on for Aston Villa. They have ended the season strongly, winning seven of the last nine games, and losing only once to high-flying Huddersfield.
Without a doubt, the Midlands outfit have the highest pedigree of footballing talent in the league at their disposal, and having a full pre-season will only serve them well. Other clubs coming down from The Premier League will be in the same boat Villa were in this season.
Clubs such as Sunderland, whose fate looks settled now, will have to get used to the demands, intensity and relentlessness of the Championship. This will almost give Villa a head start. They know what to expect this time around. There will be an added expectation amongst the crowd, and Steve Bruce will have to get his players mentally prepared for a tough season, where they will be expected to be challenging the top six, for sure.
Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and Jonathan Kodjia has been an inspired signing. The forward has 19 goals to his name this campaign. He has everything you want from a striker at this level. Pace, power, composure – he has it all in abundance. Meanwhile, the midfield issue in the camp was addressed in January, with Henri Lansbury and Conor Hourihane brought in by Bruce. Next season these two will be instrumental in how Villa’s season pans out. On their day they are both match winners.
The noticeable thing about Bruce’s acquisitions in January, bar Birkir Bjarnason, is that he went for proven Championship quality, as opposed to opting for Premier League players – which the club surely could have afforded. Although Scott Hogan has yet to really set the turf alight in claret and blue colours, Championship viewers witnessed what the striker can do in a Brentford shirt, and if he can hit that form again it will only spell danger for the division’s defences.
On paper, Villa Park should be a place teams fear to go and play football (it’s little surprise that FootballPredictions.com are anticipating a 1-0 victory over fierce rivals Birmingham, at home, this weekend), but this season that hasn’t really been the case, with teams going there and winning points on numerous occasions. It is a huge stadium, one that Steve Bruce should be wanting to make a fortress. Look at Brighton and Newcastle this season. Teams have rarely gone there and come away with anything – that has been the foundation for what will surely mean promotion for the two sides.
Aston Villa, without a doubt, is a club that belongs in the top flight. With a group of players who, unquestionably, have the ability to challenge the top two, and a manager who knows all about promotion to the Premier League steering the ship, next season at Villa Park will be one to keep an eye on, for sure.