Aston Villa must dust themselves down and go again having beaten the drop and reached the FA Cup Final last season, only to be outclassed on the day by a superior Arsenal side.
After Paul Lambert had guided the club to two consecutive 15th placed finishes in his first two seasons with the club, failing to hit the heights of the Martin O’Neil era ultimately resulted in him falling out of favour with the board and fans. A sorry start to the 2014/15 season with a distinct lack of goals saw that relationship worsen and he was finally replaced by Tim Sherwood.
Sherwood really took the shackles off Aston Villa, allowing his positive nature to infect the squad and encourage the players to express themselves with a more entertaining brand of football. Villa fans will be looking forward to more of the same in 2015-16, though the threat of relegation is never far away and staying clear of the bottom three will be the main priority.
Relegation betting suggests that the three promoted sides will struggle the most, but Aston Villa’s price also indicates that a few bad results could make it another long hard season. However, with a good sequence of results, the betting suggests a top-half finish is well within their compass and finishing in the top 10 would surely be seen as a success for the club.
The Villans travel to Bournemouth to get the season underway before welcoming Manchester United to Villa Park a week later. Local rivals West Brom come to town on September 19 and the result of that match could affect the mood heading into the following match away to Liverpool at Anfield. Man City and Arsenal will visit before Christmas, though the festive schedule itself looks fairly kind on paper and Villa will travel to face West Brom for the second derby game on January 23. Aston Villa will hope to be clear of trouble before the trip to Man City 10 games before the end of the season, kicking off a run-in that includes tricky fixtures such as Tottenham Hotspur(H), Chelsea(H), Manchester United(A) and finishes with a trip to Arsenal on the final day of the season.
Manager – Tim Sherwood
Goalkeepers – Brad Guzan, Shay Given, Jed Steer
Defenders – Joe Bennett, Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Philippe Senderos, Alan Hutton, Aly Cissokho, Lewis Kinsella, Janoi Donacien, Antonio Luna, Micah Richards, Tiago Illori, Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Jordan Amavi, Jose Angle Crespo,
Midfielders – Leandro Bacuna, Idrissa Gueye, Ashley Westwood, Scott Sinclair, Kieran Richardson, Gary Gardner, Carlos Sánchez, Carles Gil, Charles N’Zogbia, Jack Grealish, Adama Traore, Jordan Veretout,
Forwards – Gabriel Agbonlahor, Libor Kozák, Rudy Gestede, Callum Robinson, Jordan Ayew
Losing Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph in the summer transfer window could hit Villa hard, particularly as the former is in the club’s top 10 all-time list for Premier League goals, despite only arriving at the club in 2012.
Gabriel Agbonlahor tops that list with 73 goals at the start of the 2015/16 season. He’ll be keen to add to this tally and extend his lead at the top of this list after suffering disappointment in front of goal last season, scoring only six goals. It’s no surprise to see Agbonlahor along with new arrivals Rudy Gestede and Jordan Ayew among the favourites with leading bookmakers to finish the season as Aston Villa’s top goalscorer in the 2015/16 season.
Aston Villa All Time Top Premier League Scorers
(Correct at the start of the 2015/16 season)
Gabby Agbonlahor – 68 goals
Dwight Yorke – 60 goals
Dion Dublin – 48 goals
Juan Pablo Angel – 44 goals
Christian Benteke – 42 goals
Gareth Barry – 41 goals
Julian Joachim – 39 goals
John Carew – 37 goals
Dean Saunders – 37 goals
Darius Vassell – 35 goals
With Villa not having a lot to fight for in the league, fans will be looking towards a Cup run to provide some excitement this season. Good news for Villa fans is that their club is rather successful when it comes to domestic Cup competitions, as shown in the fantastic run to the FA Cup Final last season.
With seven FA Cups and five League Cups, Villa are one of the most decorated clubs in the country when it comes to domestic Cup competitions. Their last success came in the 1996 League Cup final, which is a long wait for a club the size of Aston Villa. With the added experience and depth in the 2015/16 squad, Villa fans should be able to expect their team to give a good account of themselves on all fronts this year as they look to put the memories of Paul Lambert to bed and start making some history of their own.