Five Reasons to be Cheerful as Villans as Season Draws to Close
An excellent away display at Anfield has set up an exciting final fixture at what will be a buzzing Villa Park on Sunday. Villa nearly snatched all three points in an eventful encounter but Firmino’s inevitable equaliser meant Villa’s hopes of a Europa League spot for next season were all but over. As Villa head into their season finale, here are Five Reasons to be Cheerful as Aston Villa fans.
1. Bold Intent
Following on from the Mateu Alemany debacle, Spanish media outlets decided to attribute Villa’s lack of transfer funds as the reason for his U-turn. Marca newspaper subsequently claimed that sources close to Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens refuted these suggestions by stating: ‘the solidity of the project is beyond doubt and will be seen during the summer’.
Coupled with Christian Purslow’s promises of a ‘bold’ summer ahead, it’s possible that Villa’s transfer strategy is about to get kicked up a notch. However, if the Alemany farce taught us anything, it is to wait for official confirmation from the club before getting too excited by hearsay. Despite failing to secure Alemany, there is no doubt that the Villa hierarchy will continue to pursue a new sporting director with an esteemed reputation. With raised standards, demands, and expectations, an eventful summer hopefully awaits.
2. Final Countdown
The permutations of Villa’s European destiny fluctuated over the course of the weekend. Villa led for the majority of the game at Anfield, which opened up the opportunity of a final day showdown with Brighton for the sought after sixth position. However, Liverpool’s equaliser and Brighton’s win on Sunday has created a three-way weekend battle for seventh place.
Villa Park will be rocking with anticipation as Brighton come to town. A win for Villa guarantees a return to European nights, albeit in the form of the European Conference League. The campaign has been exhilarating since Emery’s appointment with fans and players visibly relishing each fixture. Having something to fight for on the last day of the season, other that relegation or promotion, is an exciting prospect for a fanbase that has been starved of inspriation for over a decade. After an atrocious start to the season under Gerrard, hopefully fans can rejoice at the completion of a remarkable Villa comeback story on Sunday evening.
3. Conference Football
Last May, Jose Mourinho celebrated Roma’s first European trophy in 61 years, and the players returned to the capital city as heroes. While it may be a third-tier European trophy, three out of the four finalists so far have been elite European sides. Last year’s final featured Roma and Feyenoord, two teams that have been well-acquainted with the Champions League in past decades. This season, Italian giants Fiorentina have made the final to face historically trophy-shy West Ham.
While it can be argued that a season away from Europe would give Villa an excellent chance to continue their Champions League form, which has been evident since Emery’s appointment seven months ago, fans shouldn’t be too quick to underestimate the potential impact. It has been established that Emery prefers to play more games in order to assess and challenge his players under match conditions rather than just during training. Additional European matches will provide ample evidence for Emery to fine-tune his side to perfection.
After 27 years without a trophy, it is understandable that most Villa fans would eagerly embrace the opportunity for their team to win any competition, especially a trophy that has yet to be claimed by any English sides (Forza Fiorentina!). Europa Conference League qualification will give Villa the chance to compete in three cup competitions next season, and with cup expert Emery at the helm, perhaps next year will be the year the drought ends.
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4. Relegation Feast
While all eyes at Villa will be focused on the Spurs and Brentford fixtures on Sunday, the relegation battle will also provide nail-biting entertainment. Regardless of the results, the three promoted sides are safe this season, which means that three of the more established Premier League teams will drop down into the Championship. It is fitting that Nottingham Forest, two-time winners of the European Cup (Forza Inter!), have returned to the top division and managed to stay there.
Everton seems to be in the lead, only needing to defeat a Bournemouth side with nothing to play for at Goodison Park. Villa fans will be hoping for a Leeds United victory over Spurs, with many also hoping that Dean Smith can pull off another relegation Houdini act. Regardless of which team you prefer to see drop down a division, two things are certain:
1. It’ll be tense and make for great viewing.
2. Fans should grateful that Villa are nowhere near the relegation battle this season.
5. Marvellous Occasion
Villa will also have an interest in the upcoming Championship Playoff final. Marvellous Nakamba will be aiming to lead Luton into the top tier, for the first time since the Premier League was formed, completing a remarkable climb from the lower leagues. Nakamba played a significant role in Gerrard’s early positive form before suffering an injury that kept him out for the majority of last season. Upon his return, Nakamba’s previous strong performances seemed to have been forgotten, as Gerrard had settled on his favorite players regardless of results and performances.
Nakamba’s Villa career hasn’t been an overall success story, but he is a highly respected and well-liked figure among the fans. Luton Town manager Rob Edwards recently spoke about Nakamba’s arrival sparking an upsurge in their form, thanks to both his abilities and positive impact on his teammates. The Championship Playoff final is one of the most thrilling fixtures in the football calendar, and watching Nakamba play will only add to the occasion.