Wesley Moraes (att) Stoke City; Morgan Sanson (mid) Nice – on loan; Viljami Sinisalo (gk) Exeter – on loan; Marvelous Nakamba (mid) Luton – loan made permanent; Ashley Young (sp) (def) – released; Jed Steer (gk) released
Steven Gerrard was dismissed after two wins in 11 games, as Aston Villa found themselves in a relegation battle. Unai Emery succeeded Gerrard in October and managed to turn the situation around, inspiring Villa to an impressive run in the new calendar year that saw the team grab 26 points from a possible 30 to secure European football for the first time since 2010/11.
Villa have managed to keep their backbone intact. They did offload some squad players, but all the starters have stayed put. Meanwhile, they strengthened their squad with the acquisitions of Bayer Leverkusen’s starting winger Moussa Diaby, Villarreal’s key defender Pau Torres and Leicester City’s talented midfielder Youri Tielemans, who joined the club on a free transfer.
Emery wants to build on an extraordinary second half of last season. Villa have qualified for the Conference League, which means that they will have a congested calendar in 2023/24. Yet, they’ve strengthened their team, as Diaby, Torres and Tielemans are all expected to be starters under the Spanish coach, who beefed up all his lines with experienced and extremely talented players.
Boubacar Kamara will be fully recovered and eager to return to action, and Emery will have the luxury of being able to rotate a strong midfield during their journey through the Europa Conference League, as Villa boast the likes of John McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Jacob Ramsey, Tielemens, and Leander Dendoncker.
Despite boasting the joint-fifth best defence in the Premier League last season, Villa struggled in attack, as they netted fewer goals than any other top-10 side. They did sign Diaby, while Ollie Watkins scored 15 league goals last season, but they need more firepower in attack in order to compete for a European spot next season.
Their should aim for a top-six spot, one which will secure them Europa League qualification. Villa have what it takes to improve their position in the standings.