At the end of the 2019/20 Premier League season, Aston Villa breathed a huge sigh of relief as they finished one point above the relegation zone, with a seemingly impossible goal-line technology mishap against Sheffield United proving to be the saviour they never expected.
But fast-forward a year to the end of the 2020/21 campaign, and you’ll find no luck involved in Villa’s season. Dean Smith’s side were one of the surprise packages in the Premier League, for a while maintaining a top six charge until falling off and eventually finishing 11th and playing some exciting, productive football throughout – notably beating reigning champions Liverpool 7-2.
That fantastic turnaround has shown incredible signs of progression at the club and, with the business they are taking on early on this summer, they look to be trying to push on further.
Villa have already agreed the signing of Emi Buendia from newly-promoted Norwich, impressively pipping long-term admirers Arsenal to the Argentine. The Championship player of the season last term got a staggering 15 goals and 17 assists in 39 appearances for runaway champions Norwich and already boasts Premier League experience for the Canaries.
He’s creatively bright and possesses that cutting edge that so many clubs crave. With Ross Barkley heading back to Chelsea following his loan spell, the introduction of a quality playmaking midfielder was crucial this transfer window – and here he is.
Buendia is a guarantee of that sought-after ‘X factor’ and, although he hasn’t featured for them yet, he is now involved in the Argentina international set-up. As well as the quality he brings, the fact that Villa took the Argentine off of fellow European football-chasers Arsenal’s fingertips is signal enough that they are pushing for more than mid-table excitement next term.
But it doesn’t stop there. Villa are now reportedly preparing a bid for Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse. The only player to have played every minute of the last two Premier League seasons, he clearly fits Villa’s criteria for proven top-flight experience perfectly. It’s a move that states their intention to build a team that is guaranteed the capability of challenging for the European spots, playing quality and effective football.
The Southampton ace was unlucky to miss out on the 26th spot of Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad this summer but, with a wizard-like knack from set-pieces, an intelligent footballing brain and being technically sound, Ward-Prowse’s talent is doubtless.
He’d add another dimension to the Villans’ midfield and would further strengthen a key area of the pitch with someone who knows the Premier League inside-out – all signalling an intention to significantly kick on from a good campaign last time out.
It may be too early to predict how Aston Villa’s summer transfer business will affect their 2021/22 season – especially with potential outgoings to come – but what is certain is that the club are looking to build, and build with quality.
With such uncertainty surrounding nearly every aspect of life, there is room for underdogs to thrive – just ask David Moyes and West Ham. The pursuit and potential acquisition of other Premier League clubs’ stars is not just ambitious in itself for Aston Villa, but shows their desire to really progress and make themselves a threat to the European qualification places.