Friday, 7 August 2015

How strong is Tim's newly rebuilt Villa?

There have been a lot of changes at Aston Villa over the summer, not least the departures of former captain Fabien Delph, lead striker Christian Benteke, midfielder Tom Cleverly, Andreas Weimann and the experienced Shay Given. It's been difficult for Tim Sherwood and after the FA Cup Final and the poor end of the season that the club had he'll be desperate to prove that he is the man to bring stability and then success to Villa. New signings have been made that are thought to exceed an outlay of £45 million, but are Villa really a better side than the Cherries fast in the fourth round of the FA Cup last season?
Aston Villa will have a very different looking team to when they last met the Cherries.
Well, they certainly should be. While Delph's leadership and midfield gile have been lost it will be a race to try and integrate the new summer signings with much reliance on the foreign signings of Idrissa Gueye from Lille, along with Jordan Veretout from Nantes, Jose Angel Crespo from Cordoba and Jordan Amivi from Nice. If these players click in the Premier League Sherwood will be rewarded with vision and praise, but the signing that he has made that I believe will lift their team is midfielder Scott Sinclair who was long lost at Man City but may have found the perfect home at Villa Park. Sinclair signed in May having been on loan at Villa and he is in good form too having smashed a hat-trick in the Villa's last pre-season game at the City ground against Nottingham Forest.

Pre-season has been a little uneventful with Sherwood looking how best to integrate new signings into his side. Draws against Walsall (1-1), Wolves (2-2) and Nottingham Forest (3-3), and an early 3-1 defeat to Fulham, might not have given Villa the winning feeling but playing against Championship and League One sides in pre-season is perhaps a good grounding for the newly signed foreign players who'll have to come to terms with the pace of the English game fairly quickly. Sherwood has a squad that still has some recognisable names but it's not known how much playing time he'll give to the likes of Joe Cole, Philippe Senderos and Gabriel Agbonlahor. His jewels though are the flare players like Jack Grealish and Carles Gils, but he'll want more from them and the likes of Charles Nzogbia, Ashley Westwood, Carlos Sanchez and Ciaran Clark.

Sherwood has not added that many British-based players, but big things will be expected for former Blackburn striker Rudy Gestede. The Benin player is 26 and has signed for four years and he had been linked with Watford and Norwich before deciding on Villa. Mark Bunn has also signed from newly-promoted Norwich. Micah Richards will know all about the Premier League but he has been playing in Italy so it will be interesting to see how much he has improved since his Man City days. Perhaps there are enough funds to bring in Emmanuel Adebayor from Spurs as well? There was a time when Villa would bring in the top Premier League strikers such as Darren Bent, but perhaps sights have had to be set lower now.

Behind the scenes there is still talk of a takeover as Randy Lerner seeks an exit deal. This has been the unsettling influence that could still spell disaster if the club cannot sort out the direction it is going in. While the sales of Benteke and Delph have allowed the strengthening of the team, it is a test of Sherwood's eye as to how well he has bought. By bringing in Ray Wilkins to the coaching staff, Tim is getting help from a well respected pro. One thing's for sure, he could have hoped for a less charged first game against the newly-promoted Champions on the south coast.

Injury news for Villa for the game includes the attacking talent of Carles Gils and Jack Grealish who have not trained, Jores Okore has had a knee operation at the end of last season, but keeper Brad Guzan and Carlos Sanchez should be available, while defender Ciaran Clark signed a new five-year deal at the club this week.

If you still want to predict the score for this first game send them in on twitter to @peterbell19

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