Aston Villa survived by the skin of their teeth in first season back in Premier League… but they are now eyeing a crack at the big boys just like Leicester as they look to add Smith Rowe to their ranks alongside Buendia (but they must keep Grealish!)
- Aston Villa have already shown a real intent in the summer transfer window
- Emiliano Buendia was brought in for £40million from Norwich last month
- Ashley Young also joined on a free transfer to provide some vital experience
- Now Villa are preparing a third bid for Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe
- Jack Grealish’s future is up in the air, but Villa are doing everything to keep him
After Aston Villa just about stayed afloat in their first season back in the Premier League, many fans didn’t give them much hope of surviving next time round.
Villa, on the final day of the 2019-20 season, beat the drop by one point after a 1-1 draw at West Ham – with club hero Jack Grealish scoring the goal that ultimately kept their top-flight status intact.
Despite their survival, the signs weren’t great for Villa and Dean Smith had come under scrutiny following some lacklustre and below-par performances in the Premier League as they were served a reality check coming up against England’s elite.
Aston Villa surprised many last season, finishing 11th after a rapid start to the campaign
Dean Smith is now desperate for his side to kick on and Villa have been active in the market
But as always, the summer transfer window gives clubs the opportunity to alleviate any negativity and Villa epitomised that – signing goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez from Arsenal, as well as Ollie Watkins and Matty Cash, and Ross Barkley on a season-long loan.
Villa carried the positivity from the transfer window into the new season, winning their first four games in the Premier League, including a stunning 7-2 victory over reigning champions Liverpool at Villa Park.
Their new signings – including Martinez, Watkins and Barkley – were soaring while Grealish emerged as one of the stand-out players in the Premier League, and they were riding a huge wave of momentum. All of a sudden, relegation critics had been silenced and they were looking up.
At one stage, they were even viewed as contenders for a European spot but a shin injury to captain and star man Grealish put an end to that.
However, despite a tough run of results towards the end of the campaign with Grealish out of action, they still managed to finish 11th with 55 points, a whole 20 more than in the 2019-20 campaign as they secured some impressive victories, including against Liverpool and Tottenham while completing the double over Arsenal.
Villa, one of England’s most historic clubs, showed they meant business. And they have not stopped there.
Midfielder Emiliano Buendia was signed from Norwich for a club record fee of £40million
Villa again have gone on the attack in the transfer window, with owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens hugely backing Smith to restore the good times in the West Midlands.
Villa had started off their summer business in style, bringing in Emiliano Buendia from Norwich on a five-year contract for a club record transfer fee of £40million.
Sportsmail reported at the time that Villa had even outmuscled Arsenal in the battle to secure Buendia’s signature after agreeing to pay £33m plus add-ons up to £40m, and a sell-on percentage.
It looks like a huge signing for Villa, with Buendia having been named Norwich’s Player of the Season as they won the Championship – scoring 15 goals and registering 16 assists.
Buendia lining up alongside Grealish next season is a hugely exciting prospect for the club’s fans, and you can certainly expect some very lively games at Villa Park.
Villa have added vital experience too by bringing in Ashley Young on a free transfer
Just a week later, Villa announced that Ashley Young had returned on a free transfer following the expiration of his contract with Serie A champions Inter Milan.
Young, whose versatility could prove key for Smith’s men, will also bring some vital experience and a winning mentality to a relatively young and exciting Premier League side – having won the Premier League, FA Cup, Europa League and Carabao Cup with United, while also lifting the Serie A with Inter under Antonio Conte.
But if you thought Villa’s summer business would slow down after the signings of Young and Buendia, you’d be mistaken.
And perhaps their pursuit of Emile Smith Rowe shows just how ambitious Villa are planning to be next season.
Smith Rowe emerged as one of Arsenal’s best players last season and one of the biggest talents around in the Premier League following a brilliant breakthrough campaign for the England youngster.
Alongside Bukayo Saka, Smith Rowe could potentially usher in an exciting new era in north London but Villa are circling.
Villa have made Smith Rowe their priority transfer target despite already signing fellow creator Buendia.
Villa are not giving up in their pursuit of Arsenal youngster Emile Smith Rowe this summer
Villa have already had two offers rejected for Smith Rowe, the second worth about £30m, but have not given up hope of landing the England Under-21 international.
Despite Arsenal being desperately keen to keep their star youngster having already turned down two bids, Villa are now preparing a third offer for Smith Rowe. They certainly aren’t going anywhere.
The Midlands club had first offered £25m for the attacking midfielder last month. That was knocked back by Arsenal, who responded the same way when Villa returned with a higher offer worth £5m more.
Arsenal are highly unlikely to even entertain Villa’s third bid as they look to tie him down to a lucrative long-term contract.
But again, Villa are showing they mean business, and their Premier League rivals will certainly take note.
After petering out at the end of last season, Villa are now clearly planning to gatecrash the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ and emulate Leicester following their remarkable rise.
While Leicester’s fortunes could provide some inspiration, Smith – a boyhood Villa fan – will be looking closer to home and hoping to replicate the days under Martin O’Neill.
After a difficult first season in 2006-07, Villa enjoyed three consecutive sixth-place finishes under O’Neill in the Premier League as they threatened to break into the Champions League spots.
Villa are doing everything they can to keep hold of captain and star man Jack Grealish
It’s of course a very big ask for Smith to emulate O’Neill’s success, but with clouds still hovering over Arsenal and Tottenham following turbulent campaigns, Villa may quietly fancy their chances.
But any dreams of battling it out with the Premier League’s big boys surely hinge on the future of Jack Grealish.
Grealish has been heavily linked with a mega-money move to Premier League champions Manchester City this summer after his stunning 2020-21 campaign, that saw him earn his place in the England squad.
Sportsmail revealed at the end of June that City want to break the British transfer record for Grealish, and have been confident in securing a £100m deal for the midfielder.
But Villa are desperate to continue their surge up the Premier League, and are doing everything they can to keep their main man – with the club reportedly looking to agree a one-year contract extension with Grealish that would take his salary above £150,000-a-week.
And if the club can tempt fan favourite Grealish to stay put, Villa supporters could be in for some ride next season.
With Watford, Newcastle and Brentford first up next season, Villa have the potential to get off to another rapid start in the Premier League and can then perhaps start dreaming of bigger and better things.
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