I think it would be an understatement to say that we overachieved last season. Going into the last game of the season with a chance of winning the league was well above expectations. We managed to grab a Champions League place which I really didn’t expect either. Was disappointed with the FA Cup final result, but I guess, looking at the bigger picture, that was a hell of a season.
So onto this year. I had set them the task of qualifying for the Champions League. I thought with the additions I’d made to the squad, that we were more than capable of grabbing fourth. It certainly wasn’t going to be easy as teams had really strengthened in the summer. Tactically we were sticking with the 4231DM that brought us success last season. We were due to play all of our games at the Ricoh Arena this season due to Villa Park being upgraded.
We had some really great results in the league this season. Some amazing results actually. This season, goals were well and truly on the menu. Not always in the right net, but I only failed to score in five games and only one game ended 0-0.
We started ok, but we really kicked ourselves into gear in the game against Man Utd. It was an amazing display where we blew United away. It ended 5-0, we were ruthless in our finishing. We only had six shots on target all game.
We even beat Liverpool, who we’ve been woeful against in all previous games, 2-0 at Anfield. Tottenham nicked a win against us, but we bounced back with three wins on the trot. An impressive 4-0 win against Southampton was followed up with a 3-0 win over Man City. We beat Chelsea 1-0, put seven past Reading and five past Swansea.
We had another tough run towards the end of the season, but we had a strong finish, winning our final five games to claim second place.
I said goals were on the menu, we managed to score 91 goals this year and conceded 52. Shocking at the back, but when we won, we won in style.
17 of our goals came from corners, 1 from a direct free kick and 9 from indirect free kicks. I didn’t put any emphasis on set pieces, I just set them up in the way I think works. On the flipside, we conceded 6 goals from corners and only managed 9 clean sheets.
Finishing second was rather good, but I think we overachieved again. We gained less points this year and finished two places higher, so it was a bit poor all round compared to last year. No complaints here though.
This was never going to be easy. This probably came a season too early for us. We had to negotiate the playoff to make the group stage. Shakhtar stood between us and the big time.
The first game was in Ukraine where we claimed a 2-1 victory thanks to first half goals from Andre Green and Callum Abbott. The second leg was a cagey affair, but it ended 0-0, so we squeezed through to the group stage.
It was an incredibly tough group though. Porto, Schalke and Juventus. I was not hopeful in the slightest.
Porto were up first and somehow, we claimed a 2-0 victory. Maybe we’ll be alright?
No. They were far from alright. In fact, that was our only win of the group stage and the return fixture against Porto was the only other time I picked up a point. A woeful experience. Thankfully it didn’t affect results in the league.
We had a great run in the FA Cup last season, but this year we did nothing in either cup competition. Man City dumped us out of the Capital One Cup in the 3rd round and Brentford sneaked a win in the 4th round of the FA Cup. Disappointing, but in reality, I think it probably helped us in the league.
The new signings did rather well this season. I think it would be easiest to pick out Goncal Guedes as the best of the bunch, finishing with 18 goals and 13 assists. He cost just over £7m, so that was very good value for money.
Marcus Rashford’s return of 14 goals and 6 assists was also really good and Goncalo was our third highest rated player.
Callum Abbott managed to scored 32 goals in all competitions. The Ox got 12. Bruno Fernandes had a far better season, scoring 9 and assisting 13. Our averages were very good.
We were still a bit lax defensively, but our attacking play was very exciting indeed.
I’ve actually really enjoyed reviving Villa but as the season wore on, I was getting a bit tired of England. I’ve obviously played this league a lot and I really didn’t think I could do much more with Villa. In my head, I’d already made the decision to look for a new job. I was keeping an eye on the job market for a different challenge, but I wouldn’t be looking seriously until the end of the season.
So, a new challenge awaits. Out of England.. maybe out of Europe. I’ll see what jobs are available in the summer and continue my journeyman adventure.