Plenty of positive things have happened at Aston Villa this summer, but with a few days to go before they kick off their Championship campaign, there are still major concerns.
Roberto Di Matteo takes his men to Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday afternoon, and it promises to be quite the introduction to second-flight football for the club.
While the Italian tactician has done well in terms of players he has brought in under new owner Tony Xia’s guidance, there is still a big job for him to do at Villa Park.
Pierluigi Gollini, Tommy Elphick and Aaron Tshibola have shown that they can make a positive impact at the club this season. However, Villa still have several players that must be offloaded and they desperately need a striker capable of firing them back up to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
As seen in the pre-season friendly against Middlesborough last weekend, Di Matteo’s side looked comfortable in possession in the first half and patiently built play from the back while dominating the tempo of the game.
However, they encountered two big issues. As they got into the final third, they were unable to find a bit of creativity to unlock their opposition, nor did they have an end product as Rudy Gestede showed his limitations.
After the interval, they completely lost their way and showed the vulnerability that plagued them last season, conceding two quick goals to eventually fall to a 3-1 defeat.
In turn, it proved that Di Matteo still has a massive amount of work to do, and that will become a little trickier with Ciaran Clark leaving the club this week, as noted by the Birmingham Mail, while Idrissa Gueye has now joined Everton.
— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) August 2, 2016
The Italian tactician would have had a substantial to-do list this summer, and he may well feel as though he’s done relatively well considering the magnitude of the job.
This is a squad that won just three games in 38 outings last season, and struggled in the two or three years previous to that as they flirted with the idea of relegation before eventually dropping down a division.
As a result, Di Matteo not only needs to rebuild the club in terms of personnel, but he also has to get rid of a mental weakness that they have and a fragility in their mentality and general play.
With under a month to go in the transfer market, the former Chelsea boss has a big task in pushing more players out the door while bringing in the right individuals to improve the squad.
He certainly has a solid grasp of what’s needed, with Sky Sports revealing that the club have made a £12m bid to sign Ross McCormack from Fulham. With 66 goals in the last three Championship seasons, more than any other player, he would seemingly fit the bill perfectly.
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) August 2, 2016
There’s a mixed reaction in terms of what people believe Villa will do this season, with some suggesting that they can jump straight back up, while others even predict back-to-back relegations.
Something in between still won’t be good enough, and so Di Matteo faces an important few weeks of his tenure as a strong start to the season is imperative for the confidence and belief within the group.