After last season’s sensational exploits, Aston Villa fans will be buzzing for the start of the new campaign in anticipation of what their side have in store.
For half of the season, the Villans were heading in the wrong direction on the Premier League table, but Unai Emery’s mid-season arrival completely turned their fortunes around.
Having shown his immense tactical capabilities in just seven months, the pressure is on the four-time European champion to help Villa cement their place in the upper echelons of the English division.
The Villa hierarchy are also pulling out all the stops to ensure Emery has a strong enough squad to attain new heights, and the Birmingham club could be the team to watch this season, thanks to their recent success.
Here is our Villa season preview for 2023/24. You can also check out our detailed Premier League season previews for all 20 teams.
Villa face a challenging run of fixtures at the start of the season that could greatly test the strength of their lofty ambitions.
They begin with a trip to Newcastle on August 12 before welcoming Everton to Villa Park the following Matchday.
Villa then have a tough end to the month with fixtures against Burnley (A) and Liverpool (H) sandwiched between their Europa Conference League play-offs.
A jam-packed December schedule will see Villa in action seven times, including back-to-back home games against treble winners Manchester City and Arsenal.
They then travel to face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Boxing Day before ending 2023 with a home game against Burnley.
Villa’s final home game of the season pits them against Liverpool on May 8 before ending the campaign with a trip to Crystal Palace on May 19.
Emery’s impact at Villa Park has been nothing short of remarkable yet not entirely unsurprising given his status in the game.
The Spaniard is one of the most tactically astute managers in European football, with a plethora of major honours in his eye-catching cabinet, including four Europa League titles.
Last season’s sensational turnaround will see Villa compete in a European tournament for the first time in 13 years.
Given Emery’s prowess in the continental competitions, the Villa fans can be cautiously optimistic about their side’s chances of finishing the campaign with silverware in their coffers.
Their transfer market activity thus far is further proof of their lofty ambitions.
With the quality of players on their roster and potentially more to come, Villa will back themselves to finally end their 27-year wait for silverware.
So far, Villa have spent around £75 million in the transfer market, but their new recruits should prove some of the best value-for-money signings in the club’s rich history.
Youri Tielemans has joined on a free transfer from the relegated Leicester City, while Emery went shopping at the home of his former employers and came away with Pau Torres, who cost £31.5m.
However, Moussa Diaby has been the eye-catching acquisition for the Villans thus far, considering the calibre of the clubs they beat to his signature.
Tielemans is easily an upgrade to Villa’s midfield options, while Torres will provide strong competition for the error-prone Tyrone Mings.
Diaby adds some much-needed firepower to Emery’s frontline. The Frenchman’s move to Villa Park comes off the back of an outstanding campaign in the Bundesliga.
His numbers were too good to ignore, having reached double figures in goal contributions, notching 14 goals and 11 assists in 48 games.
Villa will hope he can replicate those numbers in Birmingham, which will lift some of the goalscoring burden off the equally impressive Ollie Watkins.
Meanwhile, Ashley Young is the only notable exit from Villa Park, but there could be more with the likes of Bertrand Traore and Philippe Coutinho on the chopping block.
Emery set up his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation last season, and that is not expected to change.
World Cup winner Emiliano Martinez remains the undisputed first-choice goalkeeper, but the back four should see a slight tweak.
Torres could replace Mings and partner Ezri Konsa at the heart of the defence, with Alex Moreno and Matty Cash as full-backs.
Tielemans’ arrival will likely push John McGinn further up the pitch as the former Leicester man anchors the midfield alongside Douglas Luiz.
The highly impressive Jacob Ramsey should retain his place on the left flank, but Emiliano Buendia could stand in as the Englishman continues his recovery from injury.
Diaby will likely displace Leon Bailey on the right flank, while last season’s top scorer Watkins continues to lead the attack.
Here is our prediction for Aston Villa’s strongest starting XI next season:
4-2-3-1: Martinez; Moreno, Torres, Konsa, Cash; Tielemans, Luiz; Ramsey, McGinn, Diaby; Watkins.
After netting 15 times in the Premier League last term, Watkins is expected to build on his impressive goalscoring form and deliver the goods again.
The 27-year-old was vital to Villa’s success, and his exceptional form saw his stock rise exponentially while earning him recognition from the England national team head coach Gareth Southgate.
Watkins will be keen to surpass the 15-goal mark, which is currently the best goalscoring return in his Premier League career.
However, the Villa supporters will also be eager to see what their new club record signing Diaby has in store this season.
The technically gifted, pacy left-footed forward is recognised for his dazzling dribbling skills and is equally comfortable on either flank. His style of play is sure to entertain the Villa fans.
With Emery in the dugout and significant transfer market activity, there is no telling how far Villa can go this season.
The Villans have significantly strengthened their squad and could be strong contenders for the Europa Conference League title, especially if they successfully get past the play-offs.
Villa have the potential to be heavy hitters this season and could even have a chance at domestic success with the club desperate to end their trophy drought.
Emery barely had a full season at Villa Park and managed to secure Conference League football, so there’s no reason why the club cannot climb into the Europa League places under his leadership.
Predicted finish: 6th
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