Five key talking points as Aston Villa wrap season up with win over Chelsea

Aston Villa enjoyed a winning end to the 2020/21 Premier League season as we secured a 2-1 victory over Chelsea at Villa Park on Sunday evening.

10,000 fans returned this weekend to cheer on the Villa players against a Chelsea side looking to book their place in the Champions League next season.

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Despite their loss, the Blues achieved their objective, while our win ensured the fans went home happy as we finish in 11th place in the Premier League table having taken a big step compared to last year as we narrowly avoided relegation.

Big progress made this season

The statistics below tell their own story. Villa have improved in every department compared to last season, and that level of progress shouldn’t be overlooked even if we’ve been frustrating to watch since January in terms of our form.

More wins, 20 more points, more goals scored and less conceded all led to a jump up of six places in the Premier League table, and while there is absolutely no doubt there is still plenty of room for improvement, this is steady progress.

Dean Smith noted in his post-match interview that the aim is to get better again next season, but we’ve certainly made a statement this year that we’re capable of knocking on the door for Europe if we can continue to bring in good signings.

In Smith we trust

He’s received his fair share of criticism this season, particularly during the second half of the campaign, but the results show that Smith is leading us in the right direction.

Wins over Liverpool, Arsenal x2, Tottenham, Chelsea and Leicester City this season show that he can mix it at the top level with the best in the league in terms of opposition managers, and it’s hoped that he can continue to guide us forward and closer to Europe.

Assuming we do act this summer and strengthen the squad, he will be under pressure to ensure results continue to get better in the early part of next season and so it’s imperative that we start well again.

Grealish importance reiterated

Given he didn’t take home any of the end-of-season awards, perhaps it just goes to show that Villa certainly aren’t a one-man team.

That said, there is no doubt that Jack Grealish is absolutely fundamental for us given what he provides on the ball and in the final third, and it has been a welcome boost to see him return for the final few games of the season.

The priority this summer will be to add more quality around him and Ollie Watkins to ensure we’re not over-reliant on the same players, but the skipper continues to show his class and he’ll hopefully lead us to bigger achievements in the coming years.

Plenty to build on

Emiliano Martinez, Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings, Matt Target, John McGinn, Grealish and Watkins arguably now make up the core and backbone of this squad and team.

If fit, it’s arguably fair to say that they will all start for Smith. However, it’s now about adding three really top-class options in the outstanding positions around them as well as depth to ensure we can compete across a full season.

A midfield lynchpin and a winger who can create and score goals consistently will no doubt be on the Villa agenda this summer, and so there are clear areas in which we can improve.

Fans return to Villa Park

While 10,000 were in on Sunday, it certainly sounded like a lot more as they relished being back inside the stadium to cheer the players on.

Smith gave around four waves to keep them entertained intermittently throughout the encounter, but the players fed off their energy and support to see out the win and claim three impressive points.

A lot was made that perhaps the fans being back would work against us and we might struggle with the pressure and expectation, but it seemed to have the opposite effect this past weekend.