Five Aston Villa players who need strong finish to season to prove point

As the end of the Premier League season draws closer, Aston Villa will still be pushing for a top-half finish to wrap up the campaign on a positive note.

After an impressive start and first half of the season which saw us mixing it with those chasing a European qualification spot, our form in recent months has dipped significantly and in turn has seen us fall down the standings.

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While we’re still only 10 points off fifth place with a game in hand, our run since January doesn’t offer much confidence that we’ll be able to make up that deficit, especially with captain Jack Grealish still sidelined by a shin injury.

Nevertheless, Dean Smith and the squad will want to finish well and take that momentum into next season, and for some of the players in the current group, it’s perhaps a little more important for them to do so with question marks over their individual form and futures being raised.

Douglas Luiz

This one could be out of our hands as Sports Illustrated note, with Man City holding a buy-back clause for the Brazilian which must be exercised by June 5.

Assuming that they don’t activate it, Villa will be delighted to keep Luiz at the club as he has established himself as a fundamental figure in Smith’s side.

That said, his form has been up and down since January and there is an argument that we need more steeliness in midfield. That could add pressure and competition for Luiz to keep his place in the XI, and so a strong finish to the season will go some way to ensuring he’s still considered an immovable fixture in the line-up even if new faces arrive this summer.

Ross Barkley

It’s probably already too late for the Chelsea loanee as his temporary stay at Villa is set to come to an end this summer.

While he dazzled early on by making a brilliant impact after arriving from Stamford Bridge, his form over the last few months has been bitterly disappointingly and very poor, and so he may well have missed the opportunity to prove that he warrants a permanent switch.

If he gets the nod from Smith in these last six games, he’ll possibly still hold out hope that he can convince Villa to take a shot on him. Right now, that looks highly unlikely.

Anwar El Ghazi

El Ghazi has bagged seven goals in 24 games so far this season, and so his contribution is certainly important for the team.

However, inconsistency is a major problem for the Dutchman, and his goals aren’t enough to mask his largely ineffective performances at times.

Bringing in more quality to support Ollie Watkins and Grealish next season has to be the priority for Villa this summer, and so that puts El Ghazi’s place in the pecking order under threat if he doesn’t show why he should be starting regularly.

Bertrand Traore

Similar situation to that of his teammate above. The 25-year-old has been far too inconsistent and when not on his game, he struggles to bring enough to the table.

Six goals and four assists in 31 outings is again a respectable return to an extent, but Villa need more moving forward if we harbour ambitions of kicking on and competing for European qualification spots.

Traore is another potentially solid squad player who can come in and provide depth and an impact when needed, but if he finishes the season poorly along with El Ghazi, it will give Smith more reason to go out and bring in replacements as far as his starting XI is concerned.

Keinan Davis

Finally off the mark last time out in the Premier League, Davis continues to make a positive impact off the bench for us and is carving out a role for himself.

That could come under threat though with Wesley’s return from a long-term injury, and adding more firepower to support Watkins could be another task on the agenda for Villa this summer.

If a new signing is made in that department, that would surely push Davis down the pecking order too. However, he has an opportunity between now and the end of this season, provided Smith gives him playing time, to prove he deserves a bigger role next year.