Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 February 2020

2019/20 Premier League preview - Aston Villa: Looking to Jack Grealish to inspire on return to top flight

Richard Jolly runs the rule over Aston Villa ahead of the new season, including key player, new signing to watch and predicted league finish

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: John McGinn of Aston Villa celebrates with Jack Grealish of Aston Villa after he scores his sides fourth goal during the Pre-Season Friendly match between Charlton Athletic and Aston Villa at The Valley on July 27, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: John McGinn of Aston Villa celebrates with Jack Grealish of Aston Villa after he scores his sides fourth goal during the Pre-Season Friendly match between Charlton Athletic and Aston Villa at The Valley on July 27, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

A three-season exile in the lower leagues was ended by two Aston Villa fans, captain Jack Grealish and manager Dean Smith. Former European champions’ status and size means they have plenty of potential.

The first objective, however, is simply to survive. A club who conceded more goals at home than the Championship’s bottom club Ipswich need to show solidity and if that statistic explains the recruitment of four defenders, Tyrone Mings was at least a revelation in his loan spell last season.

While Villa have been among the biggest spenders, Smith has not prioritised Premier League experience. Time will tell if that proves correct.

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Who finishes where in 2019-20?

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Key player: Jack Grealish

Given the captaincy, the midfielder responded by skippering them to promotion. It was a sign of his importance that they only won 22 percent of the games he missed. It was an illustration of his ability to run with the ball that he was the most fouled player in the Championship.

Signing to watch: Wesley Moraes

At 18, the Brazilian was working in a factory. At 22, he has joined Villa for £22 million. The target man, who scored 14 goals for Club Brugge last season, is charged with replacing on-loan Tammy Abraham. He has not been as prolific for his former club.

Talking point: Will Villa’s spending spree be like Fulham’s?

The 2017/18 play-off winners made unwanted history as Fulham became the first team to spend £100 million (Dh455m) on transfers and get relegated in the same season. Twelve months later, Villa won at Wembley.

They have paid a similar amount on Matt Targett, Anwar El Ghazi, Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa, Kortney Hause, Jota and Moraes. Yet it does not feel scattergun spending when El Ghazi, Mings and Hause were on loan at Villa Park last season and Konsa and Jota have played for Smith at Brentford. The element of risk should be reduced but Villa need some successes if they are not to emulate Fulham’s fate.

Prediction: 16th

Updated: August 2, 2019 03:23 PM

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