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Aston Villa Are Absolutely CRUSHING it This Year

11 minute read Published October 18, 2023

In 2021 Jack Grealish left Aston Villa to join Manchester City. He was a fan favorite, having played for the club since he was a little kid. The departure of a club legend usually doesn’t go down too well with the fans. But Grealish’s did. 

With the way he was developing, there was very little chance he was going to remain at a club without, at least at the time, an aspiration to win European competitions. Speculation started already in the summer of 2020 but to make sure the club was fairly compensated Grealish signed a new contract until 2025. Before leaving he was instrumental in keeping the Birmingham club in the Premier League by scoring in the final and decisive game of the season.

However, in the summer of 2021, Grealish was sold to Manchester City for the highest sum ever paid for an English player. €117 million. Much thanks to Grealish extending his contract with Aston Villa.

Since Grealish Left Aston Villa

Having been such an important part of the team there was a fear that the club that struggled to stay in the Premier League would have a tough team when he left. But Aston Villa has only gotten better.

This isn’t because the team is better without Grealish but because they’ve handled the money that came in very successfully. Yes, the first period after Grealish’s departure was rough. Manager Dean Smith was sacked after only eleven games and Steven Gerrard took the reins until he had an even worse start to the next season. Seven goals scored in eleven games.

That’s when Unai Emery came in. He steadied the ship and Aston Villa had one of the best spring records in the league during last season and eventually managed to finish seventh. Going only by results in 2023, Aston Villa actually sits third behind only Manchester City and Arsenal.







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So how did they get here?

Big Spenders

The ownership of the club has been a bit unstable in the past decade but it seems like right now, with American and Egyptian billionaires owning the club that stability has finally come to this aspect.

Because the truth is that not only have they spent the Grealish money, they’ve been one of the biggest spenders in the league in the past five years. This comparison isn’t really fair though because the teams surrounding them at the top in terms of spending are clubs that have been at the very top for years. They spend this kind of money for depth and just keeping up with general player turnover

Meanwhile, Aston Villa are trying to build a squad up from Championship level to European football levels which means that most positions have to, or had to, be upgraded. Most teams that get promoted spend a large amount in their first year, look at Nottingham Forest’s 22/23 spend and the latest Bournemouth and Burnley seasons for example. More than a third of Aston Villa's spend came in the season they got promoted.

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Stellar Recruitment… Mostly

While they have spent a lot of money, it’s not been on big name players, mostly. The biggest transfer was for Buendía who was brought in to replace Jack Grealish. Obviously, a position that had been so important to the team in previous seasons needed a decent replacement. He’s been great and played nearly every game since his arrival. 

That same season Lucas Digne and Leon Bailey also joined, both have been mainstays of the starting eleven.

Mostly Aston Villa have made sensible, reasonably priced transfers that cover weaknesses in the team or provide depth.

There have been a few duds too. Danny Ings came in for €29 million and was sold only a season later for €12m. Philippe Coutinho came in for around €20 million and while he looked like he was coming back into form, his quality quickly tapered off and this season he left Villa for a loan spell in Qatar. 

The jury is still out on Youri Tielemans, who came in before this season and has yet to get any significant minutes. Tielemans has openly discussed his frustration with his lack of playing time. It’s possible this will turn around but so far, it looks like another dud.

Of course, we wouldn’t know these players were actually really good unless they made the most important recruitment decision so far. Unai Emery.

Unai Emery

It’s very obvious when the turnaround came. With Unai Emery. As we sat in the table earlier, Aston Villa is the third best performing team in the league this calendar year, and Emery took the reins in October last year. He took a team that was fighting relegation to one of the best in the league.

Emery has coached big teams like PSG, Sevilla, Valencia, and Villarreal. One of his biggest achievements was winning the Europa League title three times in a row with Sevilla. He did it again with Villarreal in 2021. Needless to say - his record in the Europa League is unmatched. 

In England, he’s most known as the manager of Arsenal from 2018 to 2019. In his first year, he helped the team go 22 games without losing, which was their longest run since 2007. They also made it to the UEFA Europa League final, but lost to Chelsea. But after a tough spell without any wins in the 2019/2020 season, Arsenal let him go.

His stint at Arsenal was something of a flop. Fans and media were going at him hard. Not only for the lack of success but for his manners and sometimes halting English.

What a redemption arc he’s had since then.

Final Thoughts

I really like watching Aston Villa games. They’re fast, attacking and creative. A very entertaining brand of football. 

With the start they’ve had to the season European football must be the aim for the club and with Unai Emery as the manager, they’ve got a very good chance of having a deep run in the coming season.

And while they don’t have the financial backing of the richest clubs in the league, they do have an owner committed to investing in the club, the Premier League TV-money as well as what appears to be a competent backroom. This all suggests that they can keep improving year over year.

Plus, it seems only fitting that the second largest city in England should have a competitive team in the Premier League. I mean London has seven. Liverpool and Manchester each have two.

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