Last season, Aston Villa beat the drop by just one point. However, this season they are a team transformed, as proven in their excellent 3-0 away win at hapless Arsenal on Sunday.
Here are some of the key issues that the Villans have solved this season:
Defensive improvement aided by Martinez’s arrival
A good goalkeeper always gives his defence confidence and belief. Aston Villa has that in Argentinian international Emiliano Martinez. The 28-year-old moved to the Midlands club in a deal worth £20million from Arsenal. He showed towards his Gunners career that he was a very steady pair of hands. However, Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta preferred German star Bernd Leno and Martinez moved on. The decision looks a bad one now.
The Villa defence were one of the worst in the top-flight last season. However, there has been a dramatic improvement during season 2020/21. Maybe the goalkeeper’s arrival has had an impact on Villa’s backline.
Barkley and Grealish both thriving
There was no doubt about it that Jack Grealish was Villa’s most influential player. He was the player who created and scored vital goals. At times it felt like the 25-year-old dragged his team’s to points.
The England international has kept up his level of performance this season too. He was outstanding at the Emirates Stadium. An assist in north London against the Gunners means that Grealish has now scored four times and produced six assists in the early weeks of the top-flight campaign.
It seems that Grealish finally has some creative assistance in the Villa engine room in the shape of on-loan Chelsea star Ross Barkley. The England international is 27 next month and has still to really find any sort of consistency.
However, the one time Everton starlet has made a decent start to his career in the Midlands. The midfielder produced a superb assist in the clash at the Emirates Stadium and his all-around play seems to have improved since playing regularly for Villa this season. Maybe the Villans is the right club for Barkley to finally start producing more consistent Premier League displays. The signs are promising so far and he seems to already have a good understanding with Villa’s star man Grealish.
Watkins is a big attacking threat
Last season Villa struggled for goals, especially after losing summer signing Wesley through a long-term injury. The young Brazilian is reportedly close to a return to fitness.
However, the 23-year-old could face a major battle to get back in the Villans starting line-up with Ollie Watkins in such good scoring form. The 24-year-old fired home a brace at the Emirates Stadium to take his league tally of goals up to six in just seven appearances this season.
Although he was prolific in the Championship, there were questions marks over Watkins ability to find the net regularly in the English top-flight. I think he has moved some way to answer his doubters with his goal return so far this season.
The summer signing from Brentford looks to be the real deal in the Villa attack. With the creativity of Grealish and Barkley behind him, Watkins has thrived in the Villa forward line.
With this season being so unpredictable so far. You just never know, his goals may yet fire Villa into Europe for next season, which would be a fantastic turnaround for Dean Smith and his team.
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