Aston Villa 2023/24 Premier League Season Preview | The Hard Tackle

Unai Emery’s Aston Villa are all set to take the Premier League by storm in the 2023/24 season after an impressive outing last season.

In the late 2000s, Aston Villa were consistently finishing sixth in the league under the guidance of Martin O’Neill. But things slowly started getting out of hand in the early 2010s as they started dropping places with every passing season and ultimately ended up getting relegated in the 2015/16 season.

Following their relegation they spent three years in the EFL Championship, and Dean Smith was the one who helped them return to the English top flight with an impressive 2018/19 campaign in the second tier. Following their promotion they managed to survive in the top flight but had not managed to finish in the top half until Unai Emery happened.

Aston Villa were under the leadership of Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard for the 2022/23 season. But they were really struggling, and it seemed they were in for a relegation battle. This was when the club’s ownership made a big decision. They sacked Gerrard and signed Emery as their new manager.

Since then a lot has changed at the club, as the Spanish manager has proven his worth in just over six months and he now has a lot of powers that could end up making Villa a force to reckon with in the 2023/24 season of the Premier League.

Unai Emery has wielded his magic wand at Aston Villa (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

The Prelude

Aston Villa are back competing in Europe for the first time in 13 years thanks to an exceptional 2022/23 season. Things did not go according to plan in the initial phase of the season as the team struggled under the guidance of Steven Gerrard. They were battling relegation during the month of October and it looked like they might have to fight for survival until the end. However, things changed with a change in leadership.

Villa decided to replace Gerrard with Unai Emery. And soon, they were back on track. He kicked things off with a 3-1 statement win over Manchester United at home. They looked like a completely different club under the Spanish manager and went from strength to strength with each game. A winning streak saw them return to the top half of the table and they ended up securing a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League play-off round.

Argentine World Cup winner Emiliano Martinez, Jacob Ramsey, captain John McGinn and Ollie Watkins were some of the best players for the team throughout the campaign. Watkins was the one who grabbed all the headlines with 15 goals and six assists in his 37 Premier League outings.

Villa averaged just 0.81 points per match under Gerrard in comparison to 1.96 points per game under Emery. It was a significant improvement under the Spanish boss. The 51-year-old’s efforts saw them go on a dominating run in the final 15 matches of the season as they managed to accumulate 33 points out of a possible 45. In total, they accumulated 61 points with 18 wins and seven draws through the campaign which is their highest tally since the 2009/10 season.

Emery’s team conceded a total of 46 goals throughout the campaign and had the joint fourth-best defensive record in the league. While they were on point with their defensive duties, the club were not at its best in the final third. They could only manage to score 51 goals which was the lowest for any of the teams in the top seven.

While there is still a lot to work on, Emery has surely done wonders for them. He has managed to get across his idea in a very short time and they are likely to be much better next season with the kind of business they have done in the transfer window.

Squad Update

Unai Emery might not have been in charge for a full campaign yet but he has already proven his worth. The Spanish manager has made it pretty clear why he is so highly rated in the world of football. His success has led to the arrival of Monchi at the club as the new President of Football Operations.

Monchi’s arrival could be considered as good as signing a world-class player given what he has achieved during his time at Sevilla. Emery and Monchi worked wonders together at Sevilla back in the day and now with the duo reunited, a lot is expected from them. And, their transfer business suggests they have already made some brilliant moves.

Villa have signed three world-class players who will help them bolster their attack, midfield as well as defence. Villa had the joint fourth-best defensive record in the league last season, and the arrival of Pau Torres will further strengthen them.

The 26-year-old Spanish international was on the radar of multiple top clubs across Europe. But Aston Villa have somehow managed to strike a deal with Villarreal. And, now doubt the desire to reunite with Emery has surely played a part in the transfer.

While Torres will help out the defence, the midfield now has a new warrior in Youri Tielemans. The Belgian international decided against renewing his contract at Leicester City and left the club after the end of last season. The 26-year-old midfielder was on the radar of almost every top club across Europe because he was available for free.

But, somehow Aston Villa managed to convince him about their project, and he decided to make the switch to Villa Park. His arrival will help them be a bit more dominant in the centre of the park. He is exceptional on the ball and can even strike a few from long-range when needed.

Signing Moussa Diaby from Bayer Leverkusen is probably the biggest move Villa have made in the ongoing transfer window. The 24-year-old’s pace and the ability to take on defenders will make them a lot more deadly from the right-hand side. The French international will add goals and as well as a lot to their creative side of things.

While Ollie Watkins was scoring goals for fun last season, there was not much support for him from elsewhere and they were the lowest-scoring team in the top seven, something Emery wants to work on and as a result, he was keen on having the 24-year-old.

All three of their new signings are capable enough to have a place in the starting XI right from get go but it will be interesting to see how they adjust to life in England and the football in the country. On paper, all three signings have surely improved their squad. And, they are not done yet with the team pushing for a few more players, including Ferran Torres.

Meanwhile, the only major outgoing in this window for Aston Villa is that of Ashley Young who has joined Everton. While he did play an important part in their first team last season, Emery’s team already have enough depth to cope with his absence.

Key Fixtures

Aston Villa already have a strong squad and they have added three exceptional players to the mix. On top of that, they have a genius tactician in Emery who took charge mid-way through the season last time out and still guided them to Europe. This time around he already knows his squad and they are well aware of his tactics. As a result, there is a lot of expectations from the team.

The Birmingham-based outfit is expected to challenge for a place in the top six and their key fixtures will be those against the big dogs of the Premier League. Emery’s team will face a big challenge in Newcastle United away from home on the very first match day.

Given the kind of form Newcastle United was in last season and they ended up finishing inside the top four, it is the right kind of opponent for Aston Villa to test themselves, a win here could get them going.

Matchdays 4 and 6 will be tricky for Villa as they will square up against Liverpool and Chelsea away from home. While both teams struggled last time out, they have reinforced themselves and will surely be a force to reckon with.

Their biggest challenge as the team will come in the month of December when they will square up against Manchester City (Home), Arsenal (Home), and Manchester United (Away). If they manage to end the year on a high, Villa won’t have much trouble until the month of April. In January their biggest fixture will be at home against Newcastle, the same goes for the month of February when they host Manchester United at home.

While December seems to be a tough month for Emery’s team, April could end up being even more deadly as they will face Arsenal and Manchester City away from home and Chelsea at home. While every fixture in the Premier League could prove to be tricky, these might end up deciding where they finish at the end of the 2023-24 season.

Key Players

Ollie Watkins

The 27-year-old Aston Villa striker was on fire last season. He was involved in a total of 37 Premier League games and was on the pitch for over 3,100 minutes. The England international ended up contributing towards 21 goals. He managed to find the back of the net on a total of 15 occasions.

Watkins is expected to be the man for Emery’s team next season as well. He is the leader of their attack and a lot will depend on him. While there are exceptional players in and around, the 27-year-old but he is the main threat of the opposition’s goal.

Moussa Diaby

The 24-year-old winger is the latest addition to Emery’s ranks, and he will surely play a big part next season. His pace along with his exceptional dribbling abilities will make them a threat going forward. But, it will be interesting to how much time it takes for the French international to adapt to the English conditions and their play style.

Diaby was involved in a total of 48 matches last season and he racked up close to 3,900 minutes. He found the back of the net on 14 occasions and even contributed with 11 assists. A total of 25 goal contributions in 48 matches is a decent return but it will be interesting to see if he can replicate it in the Premier League.

Season Expectations

Aston Villa finished seventh in the English top flight last season despite being in the bottom half of the table in the initial phase. Emery turned things around in just over six months last time out. As a result, a lot is expected from them this time around.

The manager is well aware of the strengths of his squad and he has already made the necessary additions to bolster the squad. As a result, the expectation is to finish inside the top six. While Emery did manage to do it last time out, it will be a challenge for him to repeat his heroics.

A lot of teams have gone big in the ongoing window and they won’t make Villa’s life easy. As a result, it will be interesting to see if they can really achieve their objective of making it Europe once again.

The Villa team have an all-bases-covered defence along with an exceptional shot-stopper in goal. Their midfield isn’t bad either with Douglas Luiz being the star in the centre of the park alongside a new signing Youri Tielemans. They have enough depth as well as different profiles of players who can help them dominate the opposition.

But, their attack might be a bit of a concern. The wide areas are perfectly covered with multiple options of either flank but they don’t have a backup for Ollie Watkins. If he fails to fire, they don’t have a top-drawer striker and as far as sharing his goal-scoring load is concerned, a lot might depend on their new signing Diaby who had 25 goal contributions last time out.

There is no team in the Premier League that won’t have their own headaches but when we look at the bigger picture, Villa seems to be a perfectly balanced outfit with a genius manager in Emery. As a result, The Hard Tackle believes they might end up finishing inside the top six.

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