Aston Villa return to training today, and with the squad set to journey to Portugal for their pre-season tour, the squad looks a little different to the one that finished the Sky Bet Championship in 4th last season.
We’re going to break down what the current squad looks like, including potential holes that need filling below;
The Current Squad
We’ve not had any official communication from the club regarding Mark Bunn, but it seems that the veteran goalkeeper has had his contract extended for another season. Bunn has had little chance to impress other than covering for Brad Guzan in Aston Villa’s Premier League relegation season – but looked relatively sharp in an appearance against Millwall last season, with back-to-back saves from a penalty and following shot on target.
Jed Steer is also still on the books. It’s unknown whether he’s recovered from the injury that he suffered last season, and whether he’ll be training during pre-season. A number of decent performances in the cup last season had Aston Villa fans hopeful, but he more than likely won’t be number one this season unless he’s fit before Portugal.
Matija Sarkic is the other goalkeeper who has been sniffing around the first team set-up. The Montenegrin goalkeeper has been at the club for a few years now and found himself warming the bench on a few occasions.
An area that looked relatively stacked last season looks a little thinner this season with the expiring of both John Terry and Chris Samba’s contracts respectively.
It’s unknown whether right-back Ritchie de Laet will be returning to the club or the buy-clause in his loan contract with Antwerp will be exercised.
Centre-backs James Chester and Tommy Elphick are currently Aston Villa’s only senior centre-backs – and Elphick could be struggling for fitness after picking up an injury during his loan at Reading towards the end of last season. There are also rumours that Reading may make the Elphick move permanent.
The likes of Easah Suliman, Mitch Clark and Jacob Bedeau could be seen during pre-season and given a chance to impress.
Ahmed Elmohamady, James Bree, Alan Hutton and Neil Taylor should all be fit and travel to Portugal. Elmohamady looks to retain the right-back slot with Bree as competition, and Alan Hutton the left-back slot with Taylor as competition.
Egyptian Elmohamady had a relatively disappointing World Cup, failing to appear once for his national side – but may be offered a longer holiday because of this.
Micah Richards remains at the club, but it is quite unlikely that the defender will feature at all this season.
Something Aston Villa currently have is an overload of midfield talent.
Local starlet Jack Grealish is still at the club after a few weeks of rumours linking him to the Premier League, and should he remain at the club and fit, he’ll be the first name on the team sheet every time.
Birkir Bjarnason had a relatively good World Cup for Iceland and performed well against Argentina, nullifying Lionel Messi in their Group Stage game. He may be offered a longer holiday, and could end up leaving this summer if he isn’t promised game time.
Veteran Defensive Midfielders Glenn Whelan and Mile Jedinak should also feature again and will be flying to Portugal. Mile Jedinak may be given a longer holiday due to his time in Russia with the Australian National Team.
Henri Lansbury and Conor Hourihane will be both hoping to impress this season, with Lansbury hoping to get more game time this season, whilst Hourihane will be hoping to take his relatively good form from last season into the new one. Gary Gardner and Aaron Tshibola have returned from their loans at Barnsley and Kilmarnock and trying to impress Bruce ahead of the new season.
Albert Adomah will be trying to reach the heights of the first half of last season again in an Aston Villa shirt – after expressing his love for the club and saying if he was offered a “lifetime contract” that he would sign it. Andre Green has had a little more of an extended holiday than the rest of his team mates after last season’s injury troubles, and should be raring to go come the season’s opener.
Youngsters Jake Doyle-Hayes and Jordan Lyden will more than likely feature in pre-season but could struggle to make more of an impact than that. Callum O’Hare is currently injured – but should be more involved with the first team this season.
Scott Hogan will be joining the squad in Portugal in the midst of rumours that Sheffield United are interested in his services. Jonathan Kodjia will be hoping to recapture the form of his first season in claret and blue after a disappointing season due to injury.
Youngsters Keinan Davis and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy will be eagerly awaiting poor form from the players above on the sidelines and will be attempting to make the most of their chances that will no doubt arise throughout the season.
Ross McCormack still remains at the club and could be offered a final chance by Steve Bruce – but it is likely that he will be leaving on loan this summer.
So, there you have it. There are certainly places that need to be filled – whether that’s by youth or loans – but here’s where the fun really starts.