Aston Villa return to Europe in the 2023/24 season, making their debut in the UEFA Europa Conference League. But where does the squad need reinforcements this summer?

Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy


In the upcoming season, Unai Emery’s Aston Villa will return to European competition for the first time in 13 years as they make their UEFA Europa Conference League debut. While the qualification process still needs to be undertaken, there’s potential for an extra 15 games, fixture disruption, and congestion should the club reach the latter stages.

It’s likely that Emery will be targeting relative success in the cup competitions too, especially off the back of Aston Villa’s embarrassing loss against Stevenage in the FA cup during the Spaniard’s first few months in the job.

With all of these potential extra games, we’re likely to see youngsters who have been on the periphery of the first team squad get more game time, but there are also areas where the club may want to invest to ensure the side isn’t caught short next season.

We’ve prepared a so-called shopping list for where we thing recruitment should be focussed in this summer window.

Aston Villa need a right-back – or do they?

The start of the summer was speckled with the sweat of disappointment for many, as it was announced that veteran Ashley Young would be leaving the club at the end of his contract. Most fans will admit they did not expect the youthful displays that often came from Young, now almost 38, as the makeshift right-back made himself at home once again at Villa Park – and likely expected him to play more of a bit-part role under Emery.

Now the club’s only senior right back is former Fan’s Player of the Year Matty Cash, who missed 10 games through injury last season. Cash is an exceptional option to have, but leaving him as the only option with his injury history during the 22/23 campaign would be the wrong move.

20-year-old Kaine Kesler-Hayden has been plying his trade away from the club in recent years to attempt to develop to the standard where the club could regularly rely on him, but still may not be quite ready to deputise for Cash after his loan to Huddersfield last season was cut short.

The plan may be to move Ezri Konsa out wide, a move often discussed by the fanbase, to play in a similar mould to Juan Foyth in Emery’s Villarreal side. This would provide last summer’s star signing Diego Carlos the opportunity to play regular football again following his injury. If this isn’t the manager’s thought process, however, then there may be a need to recruit for this position in the summer.

Potential options include:

Kyle Walker – 33-year-old at Manchester City – Market value: £12,800,000

Kyle Walker has previous with the club – and could provide a similar option to Ashley Young. Manchester City are willing to cut ties with their speedy defender after their treble, so a veteran option with fuel still left in the tank could be viable. He may have put his foot in it with Villans in the past, but the club could definitely do worse.

Juan Foyth – 25-year-old at Villarreal – Market value: £21,000,000

The obvious link. The role that Ezri Konsa could probably fulfil. But if Emery views Konsa more as a centreback option, then he may want to be reunited with his defensive stalwart from Villarreal. At 25, Juan Foyth is still young and £21,000,000 represents excellent value (and profit) for the Spanish club to sell. Would Foyth have something to prove in the Premier League, like Emery, after his time at Tottenham Hotspur?

Kyle Walker-Peters – 25-year-old at Southampton – Market value: £21,000,000

There’s obviously something a little taboo about signing from a relegated side – although Aston Villa have already dipped into that market by signing Youri Tielemans on a free from Leicester City. Likely a less defensive option than the likes of Foyth, but Walker-Peters offers an experienced, domestic body through the door with bags of Premier League experience – and room to improve.

Aston Villa need a new back-up goalkeeper

Aston Villa have one of the best first-choice goalkeepers in world football in the form of Emiliano Martinez – but there’s a sharp drop-off in quality when it comes to his back-up.

Robin Olsen is a good goalkeeper – he wouldn’t be a Sweden international otherwise. But he has joined a long list of calamity keepers in Aston Villa history that fans just can’t trust when they’re between the sticks (Gollini, Moreira, and perhaps a little unfairly after his Carabao Cup performances, Nyland).

There’s a need for a better deputy to Martinez, even if it means that Olsen departs. Sinisalo is an ample third choice, unless he goes on loan again, and there are many other young keepers waiting in the wings like Marshall and Zych.

It isn’t like Martinez is injured all that much (although more games = higher chance of injury), so arguably you wouldn’t spend too much money here – but there’s a definite need for a better second option – think West Ham with Fabianski and Areola.

Potential options include:

Mathew Ryan – 31-year-old at AZ Alkmaar – Market value: £3,400,000

The former Brighton goalkeeper has been all over the place since leaving the South of England. He’s spent time at Valencia, Arsenal, Real Sociedad, FC Kobenhavn and more recently, AZ Alkmaar, who were beaten in the Semi-Final of the Conference League by West Ham. He’s an experienced keeper and well worth a shout as a back-up to Emiliano Martinez – but would he want to sit on the bench?

Zach Steffen – 28-year-old at Manchester City – Market value: £2,900,000

Aston Villa have a long-running association with American goalkeepers. Brad Friedel, Brad Guzan. It’s a shame Zach isn’t called Brad. He’s not an exciting signing by any means, but he deputised for Ederson at times a few seasons back, and has spent the last season out on loan at Middlesbrough, who would finish 4th and go on to lose to Play-Off Runner-up Coventry City in the Semi-Finals. Arguably better than Olsen? It’d be one we’d have to kind of wait and see.

Elia Caprile – 21-year-old at Bari – Market value: £3,400,000

One for the Football Manager fanatics. Elia Caprile is the latest in a long line of excellent Italian goalkeepers and is thought to be Donnarumma’s rival for the next decade. Could Aston Villa get in quickly, securing a young, top talent and have him learn from one of the best in the world before the youngster takes his master’s place? It may be a viable option.

Aston Villa need another forward

Ollie Watkins was a phenom last season and so important to the way that Aston Villa play. Ideally, he’s not going anywhere this summer and will sign a new contract to remain at the club. However, depth in this position isn’t great and it’s an area that will need to be addressed.

After Ollie, there’s Cameron Archer and Jhon Duran, both of whom are pretty raw and not ready for regular involvement. But it’s not Ollie’s position that actually needs looking at – it’s the second striker role. Neither Emiliano Buendia or Leon Bailey – both of whom were deployed there last season, are not entirely cut out for the role.

Ollie could play the role of the second striker due to his natural pressing ability, so options here could be for either of the forward roles.

Potential options include:

Kelechi Iheanacho – 26-year-old at Leicester – Market value: £14,500,000

Hi Leicester, Aston Villa again. Let’s be honest – a squad with the quality of Leicester’s shouldn’t have gone down, and they’re going to be raided for a lot of said quality this summer. Villa already got involved, kind of, but Tielemans was leaving anyway. Iheanacho can play both striker roles well, loves scoring at Villa Park (bonus), and picked up 10 goal involvements over 28 appearances last season despite only starting in eight of those games. Giving Kelechi the chance to be a regular starter could prove worthwhile.

Pedro Goncalves – 24-year-old at Sporting CP – Market value: £30,000,000

Here’s a player that Aston Villa have genuinely been linked with for a few months. Acquiring him would require the club to break their transfer record again – but is he worth it? 27 goal contributions across 33 appearances in the Liga Portugal says yes. Wolves didn’t see anything in him when he was in their youth system, but he’s burst onto the scene at Sporting this past year and could quite easily play the supporting role.

Borja Iglesias – 30-year-old at Real Betis – Market value: £17,100,000

An older option, but a player that Emery will know well from his time managing in La Liga. Borja Iglesias finished fourth in La Liga’s top scorers last season, scoring 15 times and assisting three. It isn’t a flashy signing and is the least exciting out of this list of possibilities – but he could do well in a thriving Aston Villa side and close out his career leading the line in the Premier League.

Aston Villa need a deputy for Tyrone Mings

Tyrone Mings. The man is colossal. Whatever your opinion on him, he has been so important in Aston Villa’s revival and is rightfully getting plaudits again after a successful first half-season under Unai Emery. But the numbers don’t lie, and generally Aston Villa suck without Mings marshalling the defence. That may change with the return of Diego Carlos in defence, but there’s still a glaring hole in the squad.

There’s Calum Chambers (and possibly Ezri Konsa, if Aston Villa sign a right-back) as back-up for the right hand side, but there’s no obvious quality left-footed option to deputise for Tyrone Mings.

Some links have included Pau Torres and Aymeric Laporte, but players of this level aren’t coming to the club to be rotation options, and both are garnering interest from further afield and clubs that can justify having a Torres on the bench at times.

Potential options include:

Pascal Struijk – 23-year-old at Leeds United – Market value: £17,100,000

Here we are again. Relegated players. Looking at that taboo subject again. But there are many glaring positives to a signing like Pascal Struijk. He’s young, for a start, and Belgian – easily slotting in with the growing Belgian contingent at the club in Tielemans and Dendoncker. He’s also a tall, natural left-back that has adapted to play as a centre back. Sound familiar? Struijk could easily deputise for Mings, and maybe learn a few things on the way.

Calvin Bassey – 23-year-old at Ajax – Market value: £15,000,000

Calvin Bassey didn’t finish the season at struggling Ajax too well – starting just one of their final 10 games and losing his place to 17-year-old Jorrel Hato. Could Aston Villa benefit from Ajax’s post-Ten Hag transition period and pick up a potential gem in the form of Bassey? That depends – as Brighton are reportedly interested in bringing him back to the British Isles.

Scott McKenna – 26-year-old at Nottingham Forest – Market value: £8,000,000

Aston Villa were linked with McKenna back when he was at Aberdeen. Could the club come full circle and sign him this summer? The defender missed a significant number of games for Nottingham Forest last season due to injuries, so could fall foul to high player turn-over at the club as they continue their evolution into a Premier League side. It could be a cheap, but worthwhile pick up for a leader who could fit into the shoes of Mings.

Back-up goalkeeper, right-back, centre back and up front are the areas that we’ve picked out as needing reinforcements this summer – but what are your thoughts? Who needs replacing or upgrading in your eyes? Let us know.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.