Last week, Aston Villa completed the signing of Tom Heaton and that meant I could now make up a starting XI for Villa with just their summer acquisitions.
Aston Villa are back with a bang. They have signed 12 players so far and spent upwards of £135 million. Villa are ambitious, their goal is to finish in the top half of the table and not just survive relegation:Dean Smith, a life long Villa fan, took over as the Head Coach last October when they were struggling at 15th place in the Championship table.
He guided the team to a play off position and eventually the Premier League thanks to his high pressing attack minded football. While, I’m not sure if Aston Villa will finish in the top half of the table, I do expect them to survive the fall. It is always tricky when there is a squad overhaul.
Expected Line-ups and Formations
Aston Villa have had a good pre-season winning all five of their friendlies. The starting XI that beat RB Leipzig in their final pre-season game is likely to be their team for GW 1.
Dean Smith’s preferred formation is a 4-1-4-1 with Hourihane playing the deep lying midfielder.
While attacking, the full backs provide the overlap while both El Ghazi and Jota prefer cutting in and taking a shot at goal.
When they lose possession, Villa like to press high and regain the ball as quickly as possible. While Hourihane does join the attack from time to time, his main job is to spread the ball around with short and long passes.
Villa could also resort to a 4-2-3-1 formation if they have to protect a lead or if they are playing against one of the Top 6 sides.
In the Championship, Villa continued with their high press even when they had a comfortable two goal lead in some matches. It remains to be seen if Dean Smith would risk the same in the Premier League.
Although Dean Smith prefers to retain a fixed starting 11 for most games, signing 12 players in a single transfer window means it could take a while for him to figure who is first choice for each position.
Elmohamady returned late for pre-season since he was part of the Egypt team that participated in the African Cup of Nations – he could still stake a claim for the right back position.
Trezeguet is likely to make a few cameos off the bench initially but he could probably replace El Ghazi or Jota at some point. Douglas Luiz and Marvelous Nakamba are options in central midfield while Henri Lansbury and Birkir Bjarnason also impressed during pre-season.
Corners: Hourihane, Grealish, Jota
Free Kicks: Hourihane, Jota, Grealish
Hourihane took most of the free kicks last season and he also scored 2 goals from free kicks against RB Leipzig last weekend. He is likely to retain the job for this season while Jota also has an impressive record for free kicks with Birmingham City last season and he could take a few over the course of the season.
First 10 Fixtures
Among the 3 promoted teams, Villa has the best first 10 fixtures.
Spurs (A), Bournmouth (H), Everton (H), Crystal Palace (A), West Ham (H), Arsenal (A), Burnley (H), Norwich (A), Brighton (H), Man City (A)
They play away at Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester City in GW 1, 6 and 10 respectively which could spell trouble however, you would expect Villa to score a few goals in the other 7 games.
FPL – Players to Consider
Tom Heaton (£4.5m) made a few brilliant saves last weekend against RB Leipzig. While Aston Villa are not your likely candidate for keeping clean sheets, Heaton could earn plenty of save points.
For those who still believe in the concept of rotation, Aston Villa and Burnley’s fixtures rotate quite well till GW9. So, Pope + Heaton are still an option.
In defence, Frederic Guilbert (£4.5m) has assisted 3 goals in pre-season and he could be a good budget option.
Jack Grealish (£6m) at 7.5%, is the highest owned Villa player in FPL currently as he is involved in most of their goals from open play. Hourihane and Jota come at the same price point as Grealish and could be good differentials given Villa’s opening 9 fixtures.
John McGinn (£5.5m) is also likely to get a few goals to his name but he has a reputation of being a yellow card magnet.
New striker Wesley (£6m) is a good option for a third choice forward given that he takes penalties – he has scored 2 and assisted 2 in pre-season – given how nice Villa’s opening fixtures are.
In conclusion, from an FPL perspective, it would make sense to pick a midfielder or forward from Aston Villa after their first game against Spurs.
They are likely to score a few goals, especially when they play at Villa Park. I don’t think they are the type of team that is going to keep too many clean sheets but Guilbert and Targett could get the odd assist or two and £4.5m isn’t too much of an investment.