From Coutinho to youngsters like Jaden Philogene-Bidace, there are plenty of players with a point to prove during Aston Villa’s pre-season tour in America.
Words: SlowJamsForever (@SlowJamsForever)
It is now just a few hours until until Aston Villa’s US tour gets underway for real. While still a friendly, the meeting with Newcastle at Lincoln Field in Pennsylvania will have huge implications considering the Villans open the Premier League campaign with a trip to St. James Park.
Clashes with Fulham and Brentford will also be a chance to set down some important markers for the upcoming season and with 26 players set to feature, it’s extremely hard to narrow down a list of who to keep a special eye on during the week ahead. But with a few different storylines at play as Villa’s pre-season rolls on, we’re going to do precisely that and examine some faces with an extra reason to stand out in the States.
Ashley Young’s second departure from Villa has left the affectionately called “Little Magician” as Aston Villa’s most senior outfield player. The former world record transfer has become something of a forgotten man as of late, struggling for form and fitness to end last season, while the club go big with attacking signings during this window. Extra reasons then for the Brazilian to produce something special on his first club visit to the States since 2019. Likely one whose game time will be managed carefully during this run of games, but can hopefully show his quality nonetheless.
Another player in a very different situation after Young’s departure is the Polish Cafu. Matty Cash is now the only out-and-out right back in the Villa squad, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by those highlighting the position as one for key reinforcement this summer. Others have pointed to Konsa and Chambers as potential deputies, and with debate about how exactly Emery’s full backs will be deployed, the boss’s level of reliance on Cash (and what the former Forest winger can produce in that spotlight) is certainly of interest while rumours of potential new competition for his spot remains slim.
If I’m honest, the treatment of Robin Olsen has been one of my least favourite things about the club as of late that hasn’t involved gambling sponsorships. And the worst part is almost that I kind of get it – the expectation of anyone stepping into the shoes of the FIFA-recognised best goalkeeper in the world is immense, and it hasn’t been the easiest of times for the Swedish international at Villa. But a spot in the Europa Conference League and hopefully a longer run in the Carabao Cup means that barring a new arrival, Olsen will be called upon, and that makes his minutes here incredibly important.
The atmosphere on and off the pitch seemed to shift following Robin’s half time appearance to replace Dibu at Brentford last season – how he and his defence interact this week, particularly under press from Newcastle and the Bees, will hopefully show progress from determined pre-season work.
Sanson’s tenure at Aston Villa thus far has not been an easy one. Brought in under Dean Smith in January 2021, bad luck with injuries prevented the former Marseille midfielder from ever really getting out of the starting gates. This summer, the Frenchman’s third full-time Villa manager will attempt to make it click for him, and during his cameo against Walsall signs were promising. A successful loan at Strasbourg has him carrying momentum into the summer, and Newcastle will prove the first real test of whether yet another Emery success story could be on the cards.
Another player who stood out in Villa’s pre-season opener, Jaden Philogene-Bidace won the penalty that Watkins drove home in one of his many flashes of quality shown at the Poundland Bescot Stadium. Another loan is not out of the question of course, but Jaden undoubtedly fits the mould of the kind of young talent that Emery loves to provide with a launchpad to success – the week ahead will provide plenty of signs as to whether last season’s Cardiff fan favourite will be ready to take the next step in claret and blue.
You just can’t do a “ones to watch” piece right now without Cameron Archer being an obvious choice. It’s so difficult to choose just a couple of young talents to include when the likes of Kaden Young, Tim Iroegbunam and Seb Revan could all surely draw the eye during pre-season, but there’s just no way Villa’s 21-year-old striker can be overlooked. After not featuring in the Walsall friendly due to an extended holiday off the back of triumph in the U21 Euros, the meeting with Newcastle will be Archer’s first taste of club football this summer. We know what he can do to teams. Barring new striker arrivals, it seems highly likely Archer will be a factor for the Villa first team this season. It’s been an incredible turnaround for a youngster who, in his own words, was earmarked for release back in 2021. Quality when called upon for Villa, as well as back-to-back standout Championship loans seem like just a teaser right now of what the future England international can achieve. This Summer Series is the time for him to etch his name in granite into Emery’s plans. The Premier League and Europe await.
Where can I watch the Premier League Summer series?
Sky Sports has picked up the Summer Series games, and all Aston Villa fixtures – as well as others during the tour – will be available to watch live in the UK via Sky Sports Main Event or Premier League. Villa meet Newcastle on Sunday July 23rd (technically Monday 24th as kick-off is midnight in the UK) before facing Fulham on the 27th and Brentford on the 30th. US kick-off times will mean a couple of late nights are in store for those following the action from home, but the 5PM kick-off for next weekend’s tour finale should be a far more natural feel.