How do Aston Villa strengthen their squad to compete in the Champions League?
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How do Aston Villa strengthen their squad to compete in the Champions League?

15/05/24 14:54

Thanks to Manchester City’s 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur last night, Aston Villa qualified for Europe’s elite competition, the Champions League, for the first time since 1983. Coming off the back of a successful season in the Europa Conference League, Unai Emery’s men found the Thursday – Sunday turnaround challenging and despite picking up just 2 wins throughout April and May (before Sunday’s conclusion), managed to secure enough points to hold off Tottenham’s push for that 4th spot.

We take a look at some key signings who can help bolster their squad depth ahead of what is going to be a challenging season.

CM – Scott McTominay

Someone well known to Aston Villa captain John McGinn is international teammate Scott McTominay who may well be surplus to requirements at Old Trafford following INEOS’ takeover of the club.

Scott brings with him a wealth of experience in European Competitions (22 in the Champions League and 20 in the Europa League) and his combative style of play can suit Aston Villa’s style of play to a tee. He can play in numerous positions as is shown when he represents the Tartan Army where he slots in at Centre Back for Steve Clarke’s team and can also operate as a sole 6 or in an advanced 8 position. Over recent seasons, McTominay has developed a further eye for goal with his late runs into the box and the former youth level striker knows how to finish.

LB – Antonee Robinson

This could be a huge coup for The Villans as they look to cement their place at Europe’s top table and Antonee Robinson is someone who could help that.

The American International has been linked in recent months to both Liverpool and Manchester City but with it currently unclear as to the direction Arne Slot wants to take the Liverpool team, and with Manchester City eyeing up Wolves’ Ait-Nouri, it could pave a clear path for Robinson.

He possesses unbelievable pace and fantastic positioning awareness – he is currently a long way clear of 2nd place in terms of Interceptions in the Premier League this campaign and with 6 assists to his name, Robinson can provide Aston Villa with some much needed quality down the left and a further support to Ollie Watkins up top.

LW / AM – Alex Baena

Alex Baena is potentially someone unknown to many of our readers but I am positive Unai Emery will have had his eye on Baena after having him during his spell at Villarreal. This season has been a break-through one for Baena who has recorded 13 assists for the Yellow Submarine in La Liga, providing many to former Crystal Palace striker Alexander Sørloth. This earned him his first Spain call up and he scored his first goal in a 6-0 win over Cyprus.

With Villarreal unable to qualify for Europe next season, there is a good chance Alex Baena will be on the move and the opportunity to link up again with Emery may prove crucial. He has drawn comparisons to Philippe Coutinho in his style of play and no doubt Aston Villa CB Pau Torres would love to welcome Baena to Villa Park to bolster the depth of the squad.

ST – Ivan Toney

Ivan Toney’s return from his 8 month ban hasn’t been the most prolific with just 4 goals and an assist in his 16 Premier League appearances but after 8 months out, it would be cruel to judge him on this season. If Villa are going to compete for top 4 next season as well as be competitive in the Champions League, goals are going to be crucial. I know that everyone reading will be screaming and saying “Why do they need another striker when Watkins is there?” – who knows what the transfer window may bring. Arsenal hold a long time interest in Arsenal fan Watkins, and it would be smart business from Villa to secure a replacement before Watkins’ potential departure.

Toney would bring an ability for Emery to switch up formation depending upon opponent and the match scenario as he can play alongside Watkins up front in a 2, or Watkins could be switched to the flank in aid of Toney. If Watkins was to leave, then Toney would be a fantastic replacement as shown by his link up play with both Wissa and Mbuemo at Brentford, he would be sure to get the likes of Bailey, Diaby and others into the game.

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