Aston Villa are back in the Premier League – and now the real work begins.
Having beaten Derby County in the play-off final at Wembley, Villa will now be setting their sights on adding to an already talented squad.
One of their biggest issues, however, is that much of the talent they possess is on loan, and their captain Jack Grealish is being linked with a move away.
Keeping Grealish is a must, but Villa also need to bolster their squad if they are to comfortably remain in the Premier League.
So, who are the new boys expected to sign this summer? We’ve looked at the club’s potential business from a number of perspectives and determined a few players who might come in.
1. What the manager wants
Having only discovered which division they will be playing in next season on Monday, it’s understandable that Villa are yet to make any serious moves in the transfer market.
Before the play-off final, manager Dean Smith suggested there were two plans in place: one for if Villa failed to beat Derby, and one for going up to the Premier League.
“You have to prepare for winning or losing,” Smith said. “One way or another, on Monday night we will either be a Premier League team or a Championship team and you have to have two scenarios for it.
“But the difference this year is that the owners we’ve got are fully behind the club and it’s on an even keel and hopefully moving in an upwards direction.”
Villa can now enter the market as a Premier League club. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t go fishing the division they’ve just left.
Smith has said very little about who the club will target, but since he left Brentford in October, Villa have been heavily linked with a couple of players from his former side.
Centre-back Yoann Barbet’s contract has run down and he has confirmed he will leave Brentford. Villa, Newcastle and Norwich have all been linked, but Smith will hope his ties with the player can help the Villans win the race.
Similarly, Brentford captain Romaine Sawyers could be on the move. The central midfielder is from Birmingham, has just a year left on his contract and was said to be of interest to Villa in December.
Smith will be keen to bring in players he knows, although other targets may now be available after Villa’s promotion.
2. The fans’ pick
Aston Villa supporters will inevitably be concerned that some of their first-team players are only at the club on loan. Some of those deals must be made permanent, and Tammy Abraham is near the top of the list.
The Chelsea youngster was one of the driving forces behind Villa’s promotion, scoring 26 Championship goals overall, a tally only bettered by Norwich’s Teemu Pukki (29).
Chants of “Oh, Tammy Tammy!” prove Abraham has endeared himself to the Villa faithful, a bond strengthened by his turning down of a permanent move to Wolves in the January transfer window.
But as much as the fans want him back at the club, Abraham insists he is ready to battle for his place in the Chelsea team next term.
“That’s the aim going into next season,” the striker told Sky Sports. “As a young kid, I’ve always believed I will play for Chelsea. I always believe that.
“I think I have the ability to. I just have to, when I get the opportunity, grab it with two hands.”
However, immediately after the play-off final victory, Abraham said “never say never” when asked if a return to Villa is on the cards for next season – perhaps another loan would suit all parties.
Failing that, maybe fan favourite Christian Benteke would fancy a return. The Crystal Palace striker congratulated his former club on Monday, leading to calls from the supporters for him to “come home”.
You coming home big man?
— Mr B (@lee1982avfc) May 27, 2019
Fancy it next season big man ?
— Marc (@mparry1984) May 27, 2019
— Khizar Jamil (@khizzy) May 27, 2019
3. View from the press box
Another loan star who already feels like part of the furniture at Villa Park is Tyrone Mings, who joined on loan from Bournemouth in January.
The centre-back has been a rock in defence since coming in to the team, adapting quickly and playing a major role in Villa’s run of 10 straight league wins from March to April.
Pundit and former Leeds United defender Noel Whelan has been particularly impressed with what he’s seen of Mings, urging Villa to go all out and sign the 26-year-old permanently.
“Villa must do everything they can to sign Tyrone Mings. He is an absolute beast. He stopped the rot for Villa when he joined and transformed their defence,” Whelan told Football Insider.
“He looks ready to play at the top level. He is a powerhouse – excellent in both boxes, dominant in the air, mobile, good on the ball. He ticks every box.
“You think they will go all out for Tyrone Mings now. They would be silly not to sign him. If he is not required by Bournemouth, I’m sure they will be banging the door down to get him with a massive bid, whatever it takes.”
Mings’ defensive partner at Wembley, Axel Tuanzebe, has also come to the end of his loan spell from Manchester United, so Villa will have to buy two centre-backs this summer regardless.
4. The latest from the rumour mill
Many of the players we’ve mentioned so far are rather obvious: Villa’s current loan stars and players Smith knows from his Brentford days.
Inevitably, though, Villa will be linked with fresh faces, including those who impressed in the Championship this season but failed to make the leap up to the Premier League.
Perhaps the side most unfortunate not to be playing in the top-flight next season is Leeds United, who had a mostly brilliant season but fell at the final hurdle by missing out on an automatic promotion spot.
Losing to Derby in the play-off semi-finals ended their hopes of playing Premier League football once and for all, and they now face the difficult task of retaining some of their star players.
Chief among those stars is Kalvin Phillips, who was excellent this term in the deep midfield role that Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa values highly.
According to the Daily Mail, Phillips is on Smith’s radar and could end up becoming Villa’s first signing as a Premier League club.
Villa need competition for Conor Hourihane and John McGinn in midfield; Phillips’ youthful energy and range of passing would serve the newly-promoted side well in that regard.
5. Squawka predicts…
Turning those loan deals into permanent ones must be the priority for Villa, and doing so with Mings and Tuenzebe – as well as winger Anwar El Ghazi – shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
However, Chelsea’s transfer ban makes things difficult when it comes to Abraham. With no clear indication as to whether the Blues will sign Gonzalo Higuain, they may need Abraham to provide Olivier Giroud with competition next season.
With that and Abraham’s determination to play for his parent club in mind, Villa may have to turn their attentions elsewhere in search of a much-needed goalscorer.
Further back, while Leeds graduate Phillips would be a useful addition in midfield, it’s possible Smith will want to increase his options with even more additions.
Our recommendation? Relegated Huddersfield pair Phillip Billing and Aaron Mooy are very likely to be on the move, and Villa should put themselves among the clubs scrapping for their signatures.
In the right team, both Billing and Mooy have the potential to be two of the best central midfielders outside of the top six.