(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Predicted Final Position: Seventh
Key Signing: Stewart Downing
Key Player: Curtis Davies
In brief: Martin O’Neill might be excited that Manchester City are now challenging the “Big Four”, but the reality is their big spending has pretty much shut the door on the Villans' slim Champions League hopes. Europa Cup football will be a decent result in what could be a difficult season.
The loss of Martin Laursen to a career-ending injury derailed Villa during the second half of last season, and Curtis Davies will have to step and realise the potential he has always promised if the team aren’t to become prone at the back this time out.
In midfield things look decent, although new signing Fabian Delph will need a while to develop before he can reasonably be expected to take over the role of the departed Gareth Barry.
The youngster has the talent, however, and has surely found the perfect club to further his career, especially as other young talents like Marc Albrighton (pictured, left) are coming through.
Where Stewart Downing will fit into the mix will prove interesting, although injury will prevent us finding out the answer until nearer Christmas. Will Ashley Young have change from the left wing?
Or will O’Neill see if Downing can replicated Young’s threat from an unfamiliar role on the right? What happens to James Milner? All are important quandaries, but quandaries Martin O’Neill will love to have.
John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor provide a great threat to oppositions with their mix of power and blistering pace, and Emile Heskey and Nathan Delfouneso will compliment those combinations.
The squad’s losses may outweigh the additions, but the Midlands club will still stay ahead of the majority of the mid-table pack this season.