Last season: 6th
Key signing: Brad Friedel
Brad Friedel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League over the last decade, after finally moving to the Premier League in 1997 with Liverpool. At the age of 37 and after season after season of great performances Aston Villa swooped for him this summer for an undisclosed fee thought be in the region of £2,000,000. Maybe he’s only got a few years left in his prime, but he is still an excellent signing after last season’s loanee Scott Carson didn’t prove to be a good enough standard for a top half Premier League team.
Key player: Ashley Young
Ashley Young’s performances were so good last season that he was named in the Premier League Team of the Year. He was consistently outstanding for the West Midlands club last season, playing on the wing and up front, scoring 8 goals in the league and creating many more. His performances got him his first England cap in a 1-0 victory over Austria in November 2007. His lightning pace and good technique makes him a threat to every defence in the Premier League. We expect him to have another great season this time round.
Aston Villa finished an impressive 6th place last season that was confirmed with a draw at West Ham on the last day of the season. This got them into the InterToto cup this season for an experience of European football for the first time under Martin O’Neill. Aston Villa will be keen to keep hold of Gareth Barry, who is still being linked with a move to Liverpool. He was one of the key players in Aston Villa’s successful 2007/08 campaign and may be a difficult one to replace.
John Carew was the teams top scorer last season, netting 13 goals with Gabriel Agbonlahor closely following him on 11.
Manager Martin O’Neill is heading into his third season as Aston Villa manager, after taking over from David O’Leary who’d finished 16th the season before. His 2 seasons have seen rapid improvement, finishing 11th and then 6th. He has previously had success in the Premier League with Leicester City and in the Scottish Premier League with Celtic.
Aston Villa look set for another good season. With the strengthening of teams who finished below them last season and the spending power some have, a top 6 finish this season may be a risky bet, so we’re sticking with one that Martin O’Neill will successfully achieve; a top half finish is a good-odds near dead cert for this team.