Jack Grealish Has Left, But Aston Villa Is Here To Stay

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Tim Goode - PA Images / Contributor

The Aston Villa of today is nothing like it was pre 2000s. Most people don't believe it when they find out Villa were European Cup Champions (present-day UCL) in 1982 because of how poor the club has been over recent years. 

Once founding members of the Premier League in 1992, Villa were relegated in the 2015/16 season with a huge ... 17 points, the fourth-lowest in league history. 

You see a huge amount of notable clubs stuck in the Second Division due to the dynamic of the league and how many games are needed to be played.

There are 4 more teams and each team plays 8 extra games compared to the Premier League, with so many of them being midweek games making it hard for the considered “best teams” to actually gain promotion. 

Struggles Of The Championship

The first season following relegation was a shambles. As with most clubs, many of the players didn’t want to play in the second division and seeked moves elsewhere, giving little hope of a bounce straight back to the top. 

The club only sneaked into the top half of the table once all season, eventually finishing in 13th place. Villa’s second season in the championship was almost perfect up until the final day of the season, where they lost to Fulham in the Play-off Final. 

The 2018/19 season started exactly like the first in the Championship. Fans showed their anger towards manager Steve Bruce at every moment possible and the board finally followed, sacking him and desperately trying to avoid a fourth season away from the big time. 

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Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

What occurred after the arrival of Dean Smith, a lifelong Villa fan himself, was a dream. After going on a 10 game win streak, Villa somehow managed to finish fifth, creating a Playoff semi-final with local rivals West Bromwich Albion. 

It was the perfect script. They beat their local rivals in a penalty shootout and 12 months later are back at Wembley stadium in the Play-off final. This time they were successful, a 2-1 win over Frank Lampard’s Derby County. 

Villa were finally back in the Premier League.

Return To The Top

Huge changes were made to the club before they even stepped onto the pitch for the 2019-20 season. New owners took over 100% ownership of the club after previous owner Tony Xia missed payment deadlines and was accused of money laundering, along with a string of other problems. 

The team needed a massive rebuild and turnover of players to even have a chance of avoiding a bounce back down. Over $140 million was spent on what was essentially a whole new first team, with almost all of them appearing in the starting 11 throughout the season. 

It was always going to be hard, but when club Record signing Wesley and goalkeeper Tom Heaton both went down with season ending injuries in the same game, it was made even tougher. Veteran keeper Pepe Reina was brought in along with Mbwana Samatta, a relatively unknown striker from the Belgian league. 

It wasn’t looking good for Villa. Relegation was looming and many had given up hope, but out of nowhere, the team lifted. Two draws and two wins in their last four games, including a 1-0 win at home against Arsenal and an individual piece of brilliance from Jack Grealish on the final day was enough to survive relegation. 

The Now and The Future

Everyone saw what Aston Villa were capable of last season when they thrashed Liverpool 7-2 at Villa Park. Four wins from four matches to start the season and the team sat second on the table. From there it went downhill after a string of poor results and Jack Grealish getting injured at the backend of the season. 

An 11th place finish was better than avoiding relegation on the final day of the season, but with the way the season started it felt like an opportunity was missed. 

It was clear there was an over reliance on Super Jack and the difference with and without him was insane, a completely different team. The fans knew it, the players knew it and Jack knew it. 

It’s easy for Villa fans and even soccer fans to be upset at his move to Manchester City. A big club came swooping in once again to take a lesser team's star player, but it was always going to happen. The emotional farewell video posted by Jack Grealish himself highlights the journey he has been on with his boyhood club Aston Villa. 

From fan, to player and eventually club captain, leading the team out in the Premier League. He could have left when the club was struggling in the championship or when they just survived relegation in their first season back, but the Euro 2020 he produced showed the world what every Villa fan saw weekly and he got the move he deserved. 

Without Jack Grealish, Aston Villa would not be where they are today, but the club has to move on and look at the positives.

Almost all of the $140 million transfer fee has been spent already and it is clear the owners want this club to be back at the top competing for trophies. All you have to do is look at the amount of money spent since coming back to the top level, over $500 million, and the signings continue coming in. 

Wesley was bought for a club record fee in 2019 for $30 million and then Ollie Watkins price of $38 million broke that in 2020. Villa have made three massive signings in the lead up to the 20-21 Premier League season, with Emi Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings all joining the club. 

As Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow said in his message to fans, you can’t replace Jack Grealish with a single player, but what you can do is build a well balanced team with a bunch of great players, which is what Villa have done. 

Defensively Villa are set for years to come with a strong core filled with England internationals and Copa America winning goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, another of last season's signings. 

The biggest change comes up top. In their first season back the attacking cohort consisted of El Ghazi-Wesley/Samatta-Trezeguet-Grealish. Two of those players are no longer with the team and the other three will be on the bench this season. 

That right there shows a sign of progression, with the bench as a whole this season most likely totaling more than $100 million. 

What Counts As A Successful Season For Aston Villa?

This team is no longer a top contender for relegation. 

Any trophy from one of the many cups played in England would be a huge success. The squad that made it all the way to the Carabao Cup Final in 2020, narrowly losing to Man City 2-1, was nowhere near as good as the current team.

A top half finish is a must and I think anything other than that would be a poor season. The natural progression from 17th to 11th should continue this season considering the amount of quality Villa have. 

Would it be a surprise to see them finish in the Top 8? Personally, no. With how poor Tottenham and Arsenal are at the moment and the uncertainty surrounding Harry Kane, I could seriously see them challenging for a place in the Top 6 also. 

Whatever happens this Premier League season, it is sure to be a good one. Fans are back and the excitement is there with some quality teams and personalities gaining promotion to the top. Almost every team has made improvements and let’s hope it is a competitive season all the way to the final game week. 

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