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Dean Smith Prepares For Life After Jack Grealish With His Aston Villa Season Preview

Last season was a huge step forward from 2019/20, when they almost avoided relegation on the final day.
Villa were pushing for European places last season for a long time until a backlog of games caught up with them and mid-table beckoned.
Eleventh place was fully respectable, with early-season highlights including a 7-2 hammering of then-champions Liverpool and a superb effort in a 3-0 victory over Arsenal.
Because the second part of the campaign was significantly less consistent, they’ll focus on that this time.
Villa has been the subject of one of the summer’s three major transfer sagas, with the other two being the potential deals for Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane.
They could go through or not; Jack Grealish has already moved to Manchester City for a fee of PS100 million, which was accompanied by a video explanation from CEO Christian Purslow.
Three individuals, rather than one, have been brought in to replace their talisman: Emi Buendia’s creativity, Leon Bailey’s pace and dribbling, and Danny Ings’ goal-scoring potential.
Other newcomers include Ashley Young (on loan) and Axel Tuanzebe (on loan).
Dean Smith, the manager, is a true Villa supporter and a fantastic head coach.
Villa have a long-term strategy to return to the top of the domestic game, he he wants to be a part of it – and has shown so far that he can handle every step of the way.
After bringing them up from the Championship in 2019, Smith took the vital next step of almost saving them from relegation.
It will be about how he can mold the club to be a little more attack-minded and consistent to threaten the top half of the table this season, as it was last season.
With Grealish gone, the plan is to spread the weight significantly more evenly in all areas, and Villa has several players who suit the bill.
Emi Martinez is one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League, capable, consistent, and completely confident in his abilities.
After two years of great, albeit under-the-radar, performances, Ezri Konsa is sure to show everyone exactly how good he is this season, while John McGinn and Ollie Watkins already have millions of fans.
Buendia, a former Norwich schemer, has the talent to push them to the next level.
What does success entail?
It’s a tricky one since it depends in part on how well the newcomers gel and how soon one or two of them establish themselves as Smith’s untouchables.
Bailey, for example, thrived in brief bursts rather than consistently across a season in the Bundesliga, but if Buendia and Ings find their feet quickly, scoring more goals and winning more games is certainly possible.
Villa’s goal this season appears to be to finish in the top half of the table, with a cup semi-final or better and a push for a top-seven league finish the ultimate goal.
Improvement is gradual but noticeable.
August fixtures (a) vs. Watford, Saturday 14 August, 3pm (h) vs. Newcastle, Saturday 21 August, 3pm League Cup second round, Wednesday 24/25 August, tbc (h) vs. Brentford, Saturday 28 August, 3pm

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