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Aston Villa: 2015-16 season preview

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Aston Villa supporters actually seem to be excited about the new season for the first time in a number of years.

It seems that Tim Sherwood has had an extremely busy time, on and off the field.

After the disappointment of the FA Cup final defeat, Sherwood had a number of things to deal with, including looking at replacing four of his main stars of the 2014-15 season.

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This summer is the first time Sherwood has had a chance to flex his muscle in the transfer market, but what he wouldn't have imagined is losing former skipper Ron Vlaar, loanee Tom Cleverley, superstar striker Christian Benteke and last, but by no means least, Fabian Delph, the man that Sherwood put faith in and handed the captains armband to for the home stretch of the relegation battle.

It would prove difficult for a majority of managers, never mind a relatively inexperienced manger to have to look at replacing four important players, especially when there is also rumours flying around about the ownership of the club.

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Villa started their recruitment early on, poaching Micah Richards on a free transfer after he was released by Manchester City, as well as finalizing the deal for former Chelsea and Swansea winger Scott Sinclair who spent the latter half of last season on loan with Sherwood's men.

With the two new faces in the squad for the pre-season tour of Portugal, Sherwood was quick to find Shay Givens replacement, as the stopper moved to Stoke. Sherwood picked up Mark Bunn from Norwich, before also completing a deal with Senegalese star Idrissa Gueye. 

New stopper Bunn watched on as Villa fell to defeat in their first game. Libor Kozak scored his first senior goal since December 2013 as Sherwood's men were defeated 3-1 by Championship side Fulham.

Bunn was, however, a star in the following game against Sporting Braga making a string of excellent saves in a goalless draw, leaving Villa with good conditioning work under their belts although they were yet to celebrate a victory.

Upon returning to England, Villa lost skipper Fabian Delph who moved to Man City following weeks of speculation about his move. The England midfielder who signed a new contract earlier this year was snapped up following the Manchester club meeting his £8m release clause.

The good news

There was some good news for Sherwood though, as he managed to pip a number of top European sides, including Arsenal to sign Jordan Amavi from Nice.

The promising French Under-21 star joined his new side in time to face Swindon Town, where he excited fans with his explosive pace down the left hand side of field. Sherwood also looked on as his side won their first game of the summer in a pleasing 2-0 victory with Scott Sinclair and youngster Jerell Sellars scoring in either half.

The midlands side then saw Belgian hitman Benteke complete his move to Liverpool with the five-time European Champions meeting the clubs release clause of £32.5m. 

Sherwood was then linked with with a number of replacements for the striker, who had a goal ratio of 1 in 2 during his time at Villa. Charlie Austin, Emmanuel Adebayor and Javier Hernandez were all linked with a move to Villa Park before the next pre-season game at Walsall, where Calum Robinson impressed in a 1-1 draw.

Sherwood gave a Villa debut to Idrissa Gueye who had the opportunity to show a healthy claret and blue following some of his skills as his tireless display left the Villa faithful thing 'Fabian, who?'

Sherwood acted quickly to replace the prolific Benteke as he spent around £10m on Ghanian star Jordan Ayew. The former Marseille and Lorient forward joined Villa following a successful season in the French top division where he managed 12 goals in a struggling Lorient side.

Ayew made his first appearance in claret and blue away at the Molineaux where a Libor Kozak brace was a high point in a 2-2 draw with midlands rivals Wolves.

Sherwood was again in the market for new players as Villa signed three players in one day, seeing defender Jose Angel Crespo join from Spanish side Cordoba, as well as Blackburn Rovers hitman Rudy Gestede who arrives after a successful 18 months at the Championship side as he scored 33 goals in 66 league games for the Lancashire club.

The third signing of the day came from France where Sherwood signed his 3rd Jordan of the summer, beating rivals Leicester City to sign Jordan Veretout from Nantes.

Two of the new signings were in place the following day as Villa travelled to the east midlands to take on Nottingham Forest. Sherwood started seven of his summer signings with Amavi, Ayew, Bunn, Crespo, Gueye, Richards and Sinclair and less than 24 hours after penning a long term deal, Jordan Veretout also appeared, coming off the bench in a 3-3 draw.

Villa were behind with less than 30 seconds on the clock as Forest skipper Henri Lansbury caught the Villa defence napping as he slipped a beautiful through to Dexter Blackstock. It took Villa 15-20 to show their Premier League class, and Scott Sinclair did just that bagging his first of the day after 21 minutes. Sinclair then put VIlla into the lead after 52 minutes when he latched on to a Joe Cole pass before smashing the ball into the roof of the net.

The wide man then secured his hat-trick 12 minutes later as his 25 yard strike arrowed into the top corner. Villa were then pegged back as Lansbury beat Bunn with a beautiful strike with 10 minutes remaining, before Kelvin Wilson found himself unmarked from a corner kick to slot home with the last kick of a thrilling game.

Although Villa did forefit a 3-1 lead, they were left anxious after new signing Jose Angel Crespo limped midway through the first half following an inconspicuous challenge on the halfway line.

All in all it has been an extremely busy time for Sherwood who has seen Andi Weimann, Darren Bent, Shay Given, Matty Lowton and Yacouba Sylla leave Villa Park this summer along with Ron Vlaar who decided against signing a new deal. Sherwood has seen seven first team players vacate, but has welcomed nine new players as he starts to build his own squad following taking over from Paul Lambert in February.

The work doesn't seem to be over for Sherwood as links with Adebayor continue as well as talks of former Manchester United and Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov having talks signing following his release from Monaco.

Villa travel to newly promoted Bournemouth on Saturday, and the travelling Villa fans will be hoping to have fun beside the seaside as Sherwood goes into his first full season as Aston Villa Manager.

Key players to watch out for

Jordan Amavi - The french left-back has pace to burn and has already laid on a goal or two for the front men in the pre season games he has starred in.

Rudy Gestede - The big striker has joined on a long term deal, and Sherwood has nothing but praise for the former Cardiff and Blackburn striker. He may be the central spark for Villa this season.

Jack Grealish - I couldn't complete an Aston Villa post without mentioning this little gem. Grealish had a quiet summer (on the pitch) as he picked up an injury in a game against Forest Green, but every Villa fan will be expecting big things from this lad this season. Everytime he gets the ball the fans rise to their feet, and having a manager like Sherwood will only improve the skillful youngster.

Predicted Finish

Although Villa have lost two of last season's stars, I feel that Sherwood will bring the best out of some of the existing Villa players, as well as his new transfers. I think Sherwood is still in the market for one or two players, but as it stands I think Villa will be in for a stress free season, challenging the likes of Newcastle, Stoke and Everton for a mid-table finish.

Although I dont see fireworks from this side in the league, I can see Sherwood's men having a good cup run again. The hunger the players will have to be back at Wembley Stadium come May will be a big feature in the way the Villans approach both domestic cup competitions.

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Topics:
Aston Villa
Christian Benteke
Premier League
Fabian Delph
Emmanuel Adebayor
Football

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