TEAM PREVIEW: Aston Villa – Ian Taylor believes Villa should be a top half side

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Despite scraping home in 17th last season, there’s no doubt Tim Sherwood was influential in keeping Villa up. From starting to win games to an FA Cup final and Christian Benteke firing in the goals, Sherwood can now take that confidence into a season where Villa should be looking up rather than down.

Last Season: Premier League (17th)

Manager: Tim Sherwood

 

Squad

GKs: Brad Guzan, Jed Steer, Mark Bunn
DFs: Nathan Baker, Joe Bennett, Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Philippe Senderos, Alan Hutton, Aly Cissokho, Lewis Kinsella, Janoi Donacien, Antonio Luna, Micah Richards
MFs: Leandro Bacuna, Fabian Delph, Scott Sinclair, Joe Cole, Ashley Westwood, Kieran Richardson, Gary Gardner, Carlos Sanchez, Carles Gil, Charles N’Zogbia, Jack Grealish, Aleksandar Tonev, Idrissa Gueye
FWs: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke, Libor Kozak, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Callum Robinson, Nicklas Helenius

 

Transfers

In: Scott Sinclair (Manchester City), Micah Richards (Manchester City), Mark Bunn (Norwich City), Idrissa Gueye (Lille)

Out: Darren Bent (Derby County), Enda Stevens (Portsmouth), Graham Burke (Notts County), Andreas Weimann (Derby County), Matthew Lowton (Burnley), Yacouba Sylla (Rennes), Shay Given (Stoke City)

 

First Six: Bournemouth (A), Manchester United (H), Crystal Palace (A), Sunderland (H), Leicester City (A), West Brom (H)

Likely Lineup: (4-3-3) Guzan – Hutton, Richards, Clark, Richardson – Delph, Westwood, Gueye – Sinclair, Benteke, Grealish

 

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A word from…Ian Taylor

On his time at the club We had more good times than bad times and I always try to remember the good times. We did struggle towards the end of (John) Gregory’s time, when I first went to the club we were struggling then and then we ended up fourth the next season.

We had some good years, we were playing in Europe. After John left we struggled and I think we only just avoided relegation. That’s why the previous manager got the sack! The main objective was always just to stay up, loads of players left, loads came in and then we ended up in the top four!

On playing for his supported club It was special, just to be playing for Villa was fantastic but to be part of a new era and a new team was amazing. To play against Man United in the first game was fantastic, the whole place was rocking.

It was tough when it came to leaving the club, from the point of view that it was injuries that were stopping me playing. Graham Taylor told me he couldn’t rely on me to be fit, he liked me as a player because he tried to sign me at Wolves about a decade before so it was difficult knowing I wasn’t available to play because of injuries.

On the current Villa side I think they should be doing better for the players that they have. The club has gone through a transition, we haven’t recovered from some of the players that have been lost in recent years. Lots of changes in managers and new playing styles so there are a lot of factors that have contributed to the struggles lately.

We’re not a club that believes we should be winning leagues or cups but I think we should always be challenging the top 10 and having a cup run like we managed last season.

On recruitment and keeping big players It’s quite obvious that it’s important to keep players like Benteke and Delph but in this day and age it will be hugely difficult to do that unless you’re winning things. If big teams coming calling, players like that will always look at it.

Our track record says that our best players have always left so it’s not really bucking a trend if they eventually leave. You’ve just got to hope you get the right money and enough money to be able to replace them.

On Tim Sherwood First and foremost last season he got the players playing the way he wanted to. He might have ideas now on who he wants and who he doesn’t want but he got them playing for him, this season it will be a different proposition.

He’ll want to get his own players in and add quality to the squad, he’s already quoted that he wants a better season than last season but he’s got to have that time to get the players he wants and mould them together.
Players like Jack Grealish have a long way to go but it’s very promising that players like that are getting chances, but there’s still a lot of improvement there which Tim will try and get the best out of.

On the importance of a good start It showed in recent seasons, one season we had a great start and that saved us immediately. Bournemouth will be tough, you never want to play a promoted team first and then we’ve got Man United but it is important to pick up points early on if we can after that.

 

The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: Perhaps a little higher than 17th, but not by much. Delph may be staying but their season hinges on Benteke sticking around. They’ve put a lot of money and faith in Gueye coming in from France and may still need to improve their defence, despite the signing of Micah Richards.

Key Player: Christian Benteke – An obvious choice given his goals kept Villa up last season. If the club can ward off interest from Manchester United and Liverpool it’ll be a huge boost to everyone.

One to Watch: Idrissa Gueye – Whilst no youngster at 25, Gueye is new to the Premier League but coming over from France with quite a pedigree. Alongside Fabian Delph, Villa could have quite the midfield partnership.

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