The Aston Villa Player Full-Term Report – Retain or Sell?

The Full-Term Aston Villa Player Report

By Rob Carter

It’s time to take look at how the team and staff performed in the second half of the season. Having done a half-term report on Aston Villa’s squad, how did things move on under Unai Emery for individual players?  Who was the star pupil?  Who was most improved?  Who should be sent to detention for the summer?  Who should stay and who should go?  It’s time to find out.

Playing Staff

Emiliano Martinez

Following a stellar first half of the season, which included a World Cup Winners medal and Golden Glove award at the tournament in Qatar, Emi continued his fine form.  Several stunning saves contributed massively to the successful European push.  Perhaps most noticeable from the first half of the season is how comfortable the Argentine now is with the ball at his feet, which is crucial to Unai Emery’s ‘play out from the back’ approach.  Major European clubs would love to have Martinez at their club, but the contractual situation is firmly in Villa’s favour. They may come knocking at Villa’s door this summer, but the door should stay firmly shut.  

Grade: A.  Future status – retain (at all costs).

Robin Olsen

After a frankly dreadful start to the season, it was hard to imagine why Olsen was brought to Villa in the first place.  Poor in possession of the ball (often treating it like a hot potato), and a porous shot-stopper, his days at the club look to be numbered. If he’s Sweden’s number one, what is Sweden’s number two like?

Woeful. Grade: E.  Future status – sell.

Tyrone Mings (Head Boy)

After the much publicised issues foisted upon Tyrone by a certain Mr Gerrard, the big defender responded with a magnificent season.  More comfortable in possession than ever before, oozing class and composure, and with a steely determination not to be beaten at the back.  Rightly selected for the recent internationals by Gareth Southgate for England. All-in, a top class second half to the season for Mings.

Grade: A.  Future status – retain.

Ezri Konsa

Reclaiming his title of being considered a Rolls-Royce of a centre back.  After a slump in form at early promise at Villa, Konsa has more than cemented his place as Mings’s central defensive partner, taking to Emery’s tactics like a duck to water.  Mr Consistent. The England conversation should gather speed once again, but Konsa faces competition at the start of the season.

Grade: A.  Future status – retain.

Diego Carlos

No grade can be given after only two starts overall, but Carlos is now back to fitness after a horrific injury in August all but curtailed his debut season for the club.  The issue the Brazilian will have is breaking the Mings-Konsa partnership, however the extra games (play-off permitting) in the Europa Conference League Should provide opportunities for more minutes.  A big season ahead.  

Future status – retain.

Jan Bednarek

Dreadful.  Rightly released by the club in January after some decidedly iffy performances during the first half of the season.  Part of the Southampton side which went on to be relegated, which says it all. Grade: F

Matty Cash

The Polish Cafu had an excellent World Cup despite playing in a relatively poor Polish side.  The experience of coming up against the world’s best, including Mbappe and Messi, was all set to cement his place in the side, but injury curtailed his season somewhat, seeing him miss 10 games in the second half of the season.  Not helped by Ashley Young’s excellent performances as his replacement. He still needs to work on his crossing and final ball (with a pass completion rate of only 79%).  

The suspicion is that Emery will look to upgrade the right back position in the summer. 

Grade: C.  Future status – retain.

Lucas Digne

As predicted in the Half-Term Report, the signing of Alex Moreno did indeed spell trouble for the Frenchman.  Moreno’s slicker and more dynamic play on the left, saw him ultimately preferred to Digne, who now faces an uncertain future at the club.  Still a solid enough performer, but Villa may look to cash in.  However, with the uncertainty of Moreno’s injury, Villa may want Digne to stick around.

Grade: C.  Future status – retain unless the price is right

Alex Moreno

Keen in the tackle, rapid, and technically excellent, the Spaniard looks to be a superb first signing by Unai Emery.  Against Newcastle at home in particular, when he tore an experienced England defender in Kieran Trippier to shreds, he rose to prominence.  Provides an outlet on the left for Villa going forward and has improved defensively too.  Sad to see injury end his season early, and impact pre-season for next term.  

Grade: B.  Future status – retain.

Ashley Young

Despite a string of superb performances in covering for Matty Cash at right-back, the club have decided not to retain Young for the new season.  Perhaps his age (38 next season) has finally caught up with him.  We will always have the memories, particularly when he dumped the illustrious Kevin De Bruyne on his derriere at Villa Park.  

Grade: A.

Aston Villa End of Season Sale Now On!

Calum Chambers

Relegated to a bit-part player this season, Chambers has had limited game time, with only five starts.  Still a valuable squad player but faces a fight to depose any of the more established centre backs. Villa may wish to keep him as a fourth centre-back option, but the player himself, may want a move.

Grade: D.  Future status – sell.

Ludwig Augustinsson

Horrendous, and injury prone.  Not a great combination.  Released by the club in January, and not before time. The Sevilla left-back ended up on loan to Mallorca, where he played less games than he did at Villa.

Grade: F.

Douglas Luiz

Villa’s official player of the season.  Subject of a £23m bid from Arsenal in the summer with the player happy to move, many would have been ok to see him leave, but Dougie enjoyed a superb second half of the season.  Has started to add the numbers to his game that were missing under previous managers Smith & Gerrard (seven goals and six assists). 

Grade: A+.  Future status – retain.

John McGinn

After a relatively poor (by his own standards) first half of the season, the Scotsman excelled in the second half, getting back to his best form.  Dominating midfield battles (against Chelsea, Spurs and Newcastle, most notably), McGinn is now more or less undroppable.  Newcastle’s Dan Burn is probably still in therapy after the bullying he got from the wee Meatball.  

Grade: A. Future status – retain.

Morgan Sanson

Unceremoniously binned to the French league by Emery in January.  As Silversun once sang, ‘Guess it’s over, call it a day, sorry that it had to end this way.’ Au revoir mon ami.  

Grade: MIA (Missing in Action).  Future status – sell.

Emiliano Buendia

Club record signing Buendia has made a valuable contribution to the team this season, adding terrier-like determination to his obvious skills on the ball.  Never guaranteed a start (showed by only 27 this season), perhaps needs to find a little more consistency, but chipped in with five goals and three assists, showing his undoubted class.  

Grade: B.  Future status – retain.

Marvelous Nakamba

Shipped off to Luton in January, Marv helped the Bedfordshire club secure an unlikely promotion to the Premier League.  He’ll now likely generate a decent fee if Luton decide to buy. 

Grade: N/A.  Future status – sell.

Phillipe Coutinho

Only nine starts and 13 appearances off the bench perhaps tell their own story.  The Brazilian’s solitary strike was memorable though, coming at the end of a flowing move against league leaders Arsenal at Villa Park.  Injury ended Coutinho’s season, and it appears unlikely that he will appear again for the club again, although finding a club to pay his substantial wages may prove an issue. Surely even Emery can’t resurrect Coutinho, can he?

Grade: D.  Future status – sell.

Leon Bailey

Marmite for Villa fans, Leon is either brilliant or baffling.  There never seems to be any in between.  Despite this, five goals and four assists are decent enough numbers from 27 starts.  It will be interesting to see if Emery decides to cash in and upgrade. 

Grade: C (for confusing).  Future status – sell.

Leander Dendoncker

Has never really got going in a Villa shirt, despite a few decent performances as a stand-in.  Only 8 starts show exactly what the Belgian is – a squad player.  Villa fans are probably 50/50 over whether to keep or sell. Villa will need numbers for the Europa Conference League though.

Grade: C.  Future status – sell.

Jacob Ramsey

A firm Emery favourite, Ramsey has continued to build his reputation as one of the finest young midfielders in the Premier League (winning the PL Academy Graduate award + Villa’s Young Player of the Season).  Six goals and eight assists demonstrate his improvement.  One of the first names on the teamsheet, and rightly so.  Superb.  

Grade: A+.  Future status – retain.

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Boubacar Kamara

Despite injuries limiting the Frenchman to only 23 starts, the guy looks like a monster in the double pivot with Luiz.  Calm, assured, perceptive and strong in the tackle, Bouba has a huge future, hopefully in claret & blue.  

Grade: A.  Future status – retain.

Danny Ings

Seven goals in the first half of the season was a decent return for a striker who clearly struggled with fitness issues.  Emery took the gamble and sold the striker to West Ham in January for a fee ultimately coming in at £15m.  Sorry to see him go, but the transfer seemed to suit all parties, and allowed Ollie Watkins to take centre stage.  

Grade: B

Bertrand Traore

The forgotten man was brought back in from the cold by Emery and repaid his faith by scoring Villa’s goal of the season at Leicester, followed by another important goal at home to Forest.  A valuable contribution, but subsequent performances were patchy at best, and he seems destined to leave.  

Grade – B.  Future status – sell.

Jhon Duran

Duran appears to be one for the future rather than the here and now but was still trusted by Emery enough to be brought off the bench 12 times (although only totalling 126 minutes playing time).  Looks to have electric pace and a good left foot.  Will be integrated more next season, and at 19 years of age, has time on his side.  

Grade – C+.  Future status – retain.

Ollie Watkins

Despite a poor start to the season (with only 4 goals at the time of the Half-Term Report), Watkins roared into life in the second half, ending up with 16 goals (and an impressive 6 assists).  Tore certain defences to pieces (Newcastle in particular) and seems to have a good habit of scoring against the bigger sides.  Some still seem to suggest that Ollie is ‘not a natural goalscorer,’ and there may be some truth in that, but still a massively valuable member of the team. 

Grade: A.  Future status – retain.

Head Coach

Unai Emery

The Spaniard picked through the rubble of Gerrard’s tenure and turned a team fighting relegation into one that qualified for Europe.  Introduced a playing style that had many living on their nerves in the stands but is now accepted.  Seems to have built a genuine connection with the club and the fans in a relatively short space of time.  It will be interesting to see how he shapes the squad in the summer, particularly with the challenge of European football next season in mind.  Three areas seem to stand out for strengthening; a right winger, an additional striking option and a right-back. Then, it’s all about squad competition and depth.  

Grade: A+.  Future status – retain.