Aston Villa return home from Australia this weekend as Steven Gerrard will look back on a productive pre-season tour this summer.
Villa get our Premier League campaign underway in two weeks with a trip to Bournemouth on August 6, and so it was imperative that the squad used this trip to get in the possible shape building up to that.
Having secured two wins and a draw from our three games, with four goals scored and two conceded, Gerrard will be pleased with various aspects of the performances, training sessions and off-the-pitch duties, but he will also be fully aware that there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Whether that’s based on his selections, the team’s overall performance or how the squad will look come the start of the season, it promises to be another busy two weeks ahead, but the Australia tour will certainly have served its purpose and been a key stage in our preparations this summer.
Who has pushed themselves into contention
Villa’s youngsters have all given a great account of themselves in Australia, with Kaine Kesler-Hayden, Tim Iroegbunam and Cameron Archer standing out in particular.
That trio will hope they’ve done enough to remain in Gerrard’s plans this season and importantly get minutes in a Villa shirt, while the likes of Josh Feeney and Aaron Ramsey also gained valuable experience on the trip alongside their senior teammates.
Leon Bailey produced a stand-out display against Man Utd, while Emiliano Buendia continues to impress when involved and Calum Chambers has certainly made a case to be a starter. New signings Boubacar Kamara and Diego Carlos were also impressive immediately and look to be two smart additions to the team and so there were multiple positive outcomes for our first-team squad.
Unfortunately, it looks as though Frederic Guilbert and Bertrand Traore missed out when given a chance to impress, and having not been named in the squad that faced Utd, it feels as though time may well be up for the pair.
Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins scored one goal between them, a penalty for the former, and having also struggled as a pairing once again in the last outing, question marks will once again be raised over their ability to play alongside each other and if we need further competition and quality up front.
While he’s not on the tour itself, Carney Chukwuemeka’s contract stand-off saw him miss out on staking his claim for a bigger role this year.
Who will be set for Villa exit in coming weeks
A. Ramsey and Feeney are more than likely to be loaned out, while Guilbert and Traore could be on the move elsewhere too given how they’ve fallen down the pecking order and there is a need to trim the squad.
Gerrard has a decision to make on Archer, Kesler-Hayden and Iroegbunam, as although they’ve proven their ability to come in and make an impact for us now, a loan spell elsewhere could be more beneficial for their long-term development.
Chukwuemeka could leave too if a new deal isn’t agreed, while Keinan Davis, Anwar El Ghazi, Kortney Hause and Jaden Philogene-Bidace are all candidates to move on this summer, be it permanently or on loan.
Villa commercial boost, fans in Australia
The following that Villa had in Brisbane, Townsville and Perth was incredible to see, and not only was it a treat for those fans, but it’s hoped that the trip and the work done by the club off the pitch will help to build the club and brand further.
Naturally with these big pre-season tours abroad, there is a commercial aspect to it and CEO Christian Purslow will have been looking to maximise all the possible partnerships and revenue streams possible.
As we look to grow and expand as a club around the world, these trips are a crucial part of the strategy. Provided it has worked from a football perspective for Gerrard, his staff and the squad in terms of getting ready for the new campaign, then it ticks a lot of the right boxes.