Aston Villa are into the second week of pre-season, and the club have two important issues that still need to be addressed before the Premier League campaign gets underway.
Dean Smith’s side face Walsall in our first pre-season game a week tomorrow, while a trip to Vicarage Road to face Watford in our league opener is now just a month away.
Villa moved quickly to sign Emiliano Buendia early on in the transfer window, while Ashley Young soon followed in two important and sensible bits of business to improve the squad.
That said, several individuals, many of whom were experienced members of said squad, have left, and so there are still voids to be filled in order to have a group capable of competing at the top end of the Premier League table across an entire season.
Firstly though, perhaps the most critical factor this summer will be to secure Jack Grealish’s future.
Grealish rumours continue, new contract to end talk over future
Although EURO 2020 has now come to an end, Grealish will be given additional time off before having to report back to training at Villa ahead of the new season.
England’s run to the final could in fact raise question marks over his availability for the first game of the campaign, but time will tell how the club and player approach it.
With speculation continuing to swirl over his future though, it remains to be seen if Grealish reports back to Villa at all as rumours continue to link him with an exit this summer.
From a Villa perspective, it is absolutely pivotal that we agree on new terms with our skipper and secure his long-term future to fend off interest from elsewhere and to acknowledge it as a show of faith from both sides that we’re building something important here together.
Time will tell if Grealish accepts any forthcoming offer from us and rejects the option to move on. Ideally, he will stay and lead us again next season, but either way, it’s the foundation of our transfer window at this time and an answer will be needed soon as if that foundation is ripped out by a transfer, a new one will need to set before the campaign starts.
Strengthen Villa squad, voids still need to be filled
With Tom Heaton, Ahmed Elmohamady, Neil Taylor, Bjorn Engels and Mbwana Samatta all moving on this summer, there are evidently areas in which we’re lacking quality depth.
While it remains to be seen if that leads to opportunities for the club’s youngsters to get chances, Smith will also surely want more experienced heads in the dressing room too as seen with the signing of Young.
In turn, it’s hoped that those additions are made sooner rather than later, as it will give any new recruits ample time to settle and adjust during the pre-season schedule and be as ready as possible for the first game of the new season.
There are arguably question marks still hanging over the likes of Frederic Guilbert and Conor Hourihane too after their loan spells elsewhere last year, and so there is still a lot to sort out as far as Villa and Smith are concerned with time likely to pass very quickly too.