Aston Villa might have lost Jack Grealish to Manchester City for a Premier League record £100million fee, but after spending nearly £95million themselves, are setting their sights high for the coming campaign.
Dean Smith’s side begin their quest to bring European football back to Villa Park on Saturday, as they get their 2021/22 Premier League season underway.
An opening day trip Watford is first up before Villa finish the month of August hosting Newcastle United and Brentford, ahead of visiting European Champions Chelsea.
Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey, and Danny Ings have all been brought in to help replace the attacking influence of Grealish this summer, while sporting director Johan Lange has also thrashed out deals to bring back Ashley Young permanently and Axel Tuanzebe on loan, too.
So despite losing their talisman and boyhood fan to Manchester City, are exciting times just around the corner and what can we expect to see from a new look Villa side this season?
Charlie Gregory caught up with The AVFC Faithful to gauge the mood on the eve of what could be a fascinating campaign at Villa Park.
There’s only one place to start, what’s your reaction to Jack Grealish’s departure?
“I’ve had a few days to mull over the Grealish departure and I have moved on now.
“When it was first announced I was annoyed and frustrated, but as time has passed over the weekend, I have managed to gain more of an understanding of why he has taken the move.”
Does the manner of his exit tarnish his reputation in your eyes?
“I think every fan will have a different opinion on Jack. Every fan had a different ‘relationship’ with him, whether, like me, you have watched him come through the ranks the past 6/7 years or just remember him dragging us out of the championship.
“To some, the manner of the exit will tarnish his reputation and that is fine to think that way. In my opinion, I do believe he was respectful to the club, he continued training but did show his desire to leave.
“It is disappointing we couldn’t change his mind, especially with the club on the up, but I am now convinced he moved for career ambitions, not for money-related reasons.”
He’ll have a number of tough players to compete with at Man City – how do you think he’ll fare?
“It will be interesting to see where Pep plays him. He played in the number 8 role in the Championship and started to fare well there, his work rate is exceptional and his defensive positioning and tracking back also goes unnoticed.
“In the Premier League, he also started in this role for Villa but was moved out wide to get further up the pitch because we were struggling with attacking output.
“I think he could fare well there, a number 8 role at City is like no other so I am sure he will still get goals and assists and battle with Gundogan, as well as for the wider roles.”
You’ve recruited really well this summer – Ings, Bailey and soon to be Tuanzebe also – what are your thoughts on the business?
“I think our business has been good. Bailey is a really good talent and I think he has gone under the radar a bit, so will be interesting to see how he fares in England.
“Tuanzebe now gives us a very good set of four centre backs, who I would all trust to step in and do a job. I’m hoping for two more signings, although I think maybe only one more will come in.
“Ings is also a very good signing; in Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins, we now have two strikers capable of 10-15 goals a season, which could be dangerous. But, due to a lack of pre-season friendlies, we are not quite sure what system will be operated.”
What do you think the signings say about your ambition this season and where do you think you’ll finish? Are you now the best of the rest and with an outside chance of a European spot?
“I think the signings show that, with the loss of Jack, our ambitions won’t change. The owners still think top 7 is a realistic target and we will hope to get that.
“I think if we can get the best out of our crop of players, then we definitely do have an outside chance.
“I am hoping that with the players brought in, we won’t miss Jack, and we can replace his output with the players we have. I think Top 8 would be realistic for us.”
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