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Premier League Preview: Aston Villa

Aug 7, 2013, 1:05 PM EDT

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Each day from now until the beginning of the Premier League season, we will preview two teams from England’s top flight. You can view them all here at PST Preview central. Don’t forget, the 2013-14 PL season begins on August 17th, and for the first-time ever you can watch every game live on NBC Sports.

Aston Villa has never been outside the Premier League since its inception in the 1992-93 season, but it’s been a little too close for comfort the past two years. The team hasn’t won a trophy since the 2001 UEFA Intertoto Cup, and despite a four-year run of top-10 domestic finishes, things seem to be trending downward at Villa Park.

Transfers In: M Aleksandar Tonev (Lech Poznań, Poland), D Antonio Luna (Sevilla, Spain), GK Jed Steer (Norwich City), D Jores Okore (Nordsjælland, Denmark), M Leandro Bacuna (FC Groningen, Netherlands), F Nicklas Helenius (Aalborg, Denmark)

Transfers Out: M Stiliyan Petrov (retired), F Brett Holman (Al Nasr, UAE), D Derrick Williams (Bristol City, League One), D Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest, Championship), D Richard Dunne (Queens Park Rangers, Championship), M Jean Makoun (Stade Rennais, France), M Courtney Cameron (Torquay United, League Two), GK Andy Marshall (released)

source: Getty ImagesKey Player: The most important name for Villa is one that nearly found itself in the section above this one. Striker Christian Benteke (pictured) was the team’s top scorer last year as it narrowly avoided relegation, and he was linked with Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Arsenal in the off-season after he handed in a transfer request. In the end, he decided to sign a new deal to keep him at Aston Villa until 2017.

On the other end of the field, American goalkeeper Brad Guzan also played a large role in Villa’s successful fight against relegation to the Championship. His performance earned him the team vote for 2011-12 Player of the Year. If Villa is going to stay in the top flight again, he will play a crucial part in this season.

Manager: Scotsman Paul Lambert took over from countryman Alex McLeish at the start of last season, but he only finished one spot higher in the table. Lambert is on the clock right from the start of this campaign — he is the only manager to start a second season in charge since Martin O’Neill left the club in 2010.

Lambert has played a lot of young players in preseason but tempered fans’ expectations of them and asked for patience, which seems to indicate that he expects another tough season ahead. If that’s true, Villa could very well finish it with a different manager than the one who starts it.

Outlook: It’s going to be a battle to stay in the Premier League this season for Aston Villa. It could take another special individual performance from Benteke and Guzan to keep the team afloat. If injuries hit either of those two, survival will be nearly impossible.

MORE: Read all the Premier League previews for each team here

  1. jpitzonka - Aug 7, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    It appears that the author did not pay much attention to Villa last season. Villa were an ascending team over the last few months of the season, and have managed to keep their young core of players together (most notably Benteke). Villa project to improve even more as their young players continue to grow, and seem much more likely to press for the top 10 this season as opposed to being in the mix for relegation.

  2. dturko - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:43 AM

    I agree that this article was written with very little insight. The author claims things are trending downward at Villa, when in fact, it is quite the opposite. The younger players have bedded in, one of the best young strikers in the league has resigned, and finally there is stability and a clear vision with Lambert in charge. This team should not flirt with relegation and should hopefully push as high as 7/8th. Just look at the table at the end of last season, and you’ll see how close it was midtable and down.

    *Also a bit pedantic but Guzan was the player of the year for 2012/2013. And the last trophy Villa won was actually the 2009 Peace Cup ;)

  3. bizriak - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    ignorance (ˈɪɡnərəns) — n lack of knowledge, information, or education; the state of being ignorant

    I feel that definition is the best description of the writer’s approach to the topic of Villa’s prospects for the coming season. Little was written, none of it at any depth, of Lambert’s gamble of ridding the team of age and wage, going with the kids for the most part.

    It was a gamble that almost didn’t work last season, but he has been praised for it since–especially since the team did so well on the back end of the season (the 6-1 thrashing of Sunderland would have only been sweeter had MON still been their manager) playing all those kids in key positions. The poster above made a good point–had Benteke not drawn the red card against Chelsea and had Villa won a winnable game at already relegated Wigan rather than drawing Villa would have been mid-table at the end of last season.)

    Lambert has obviously chosen to go with youth again–see all six of his signings at 23 yo or less–which remains a gamble, but less so than last season, as the kids this season have a year under their belts.

    Lambert will succeed, and Villa will thrive because he has a plan and he is building a team that over the next few years will really turn some heads. He is continuing to rid the team of still talented by too expensive players such as Bent, Given and Ireland, and in their place he is building a young, hungry team full skill and pace; a team that want success and will fight to get it. He is building a team from Villa academy players, hungry but talented European (mostly) unknowns mixed in with a few crafty veterans (Agbonlahor, and though Guzan broke out last year he is 28 and has been with the team for several years). This team may be bottom or near after the first three games or so if they don’t come out of the gate strong, but over the course of the season they will find themselves mid-table at least.

    If you want to make ignorant uninformed statements on a message board or over a cup of coffee at work, then be my guest. If you want to write a blurb about a team’s progress on a national website then you should not do so from a position of ignorance, as has this writer Liviu Bird.

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