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What can Villa learn from last seasons automatic promotion achievers?


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Aston Villa have been installed as favourites to win promotion to the Premier League this season after bolstering their squad with some high-profile summer signings. Chief among them is former England captain John Terry, a real coup for the club as the Chelsea legend had plenty of offers from around the globe. Steve Bruce has also brought in Ahmed Elmohamady and Glenn Whelan and the Villans are looking strong going into the 2017/18 season. Newcastle Utd and Brighton secured automatic promotion last season by a comfortable margin, so what can Aston Villa learn from the success of those clubs last season?

Speculate to accumulate

This really should not be the extent of Villa’s summer signing as history shows that some shrewd summer acquisitions can catapult clubs into the Premier League. Newcastle splashed out £54 million last summer and built a title winning side featuring the likes of Matt Ritchie, Dwight Gayle and Mohamed Diame. They were something of an anomaly because they were able to raise a substantial war chest by selling stars like Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum and Andros Townsend, but promotion does not come cheap. Brighton bought Glenn Murray and Shane Duffy for around £7.5 million, and the previous summer they laid out more than £11 million on players like Anthony Knockaert and Jamie Murphy. Villa have thus far spent less than £2.5 million and may need to display greater ambition if they are to haul themselves back into the top flight.

Loan your way up

The riches that await clubs upon reaching the promised land that is the Premier League are bountiful, but is can be a challenge to raise funds while languishing in the Championship, so the loan system can be a life saver. A key feature of Newcastle’s title winning escapades was the marauding wide play of Christian Atsu, signed on loan from Chelsea. Brighton meanwhile loaned a few players to bolster their ranks, but best of all loaned Glenn Murray, whose goals fired them to promotion. He was such a success that they bought him outright in January, but those goals in the first half of the season really propelled Brighton to promotion.

Get the right blend of youth and experience

The average age of summer arrivals at both Newcastle and Brighton was 24. So far the average age of arrivals at Villa this summer is 29, and the club could do with recruiting a few younger players. You need experience – Newcastle had it in droves with the likes of Diame, Gayle, Ritchie and Daryl Murphy, while Brighton could count on Sidwell and Bruno – and Villa have that from Terry, Elmohamady, Mile Jedinak, Whelan and so on, but it is a long old season in the Championship and you need plenty of young and hungry players to see you through.

Turn Villa Park into a fortress

Brighton accumulated more points at home than any other club last season and that drove them to a top two finish. They lost just three home games out of 23 as they were buoyed on by passionate home support, and that was invaluable in their promotion bid. Newcastle only had the fourth best home record but made up for it by securing the best away record, but they still won 15 games at home. If Bruce can turn Villa Park into a fortress, the club will set the pace next season. It is the largest and most impressive stadium in the division, and Terry and co should make it an intimidating place to visit. If you want to get betting on football then the 2/1 on offer for Aston Villa to be promoted looks a great option.

Utilise a deadly striker

Goals ultimately win you the division, as Rafa Benitez acknowledged with the shrewd recruitment of Dwight Gayle. The forward enjoyed the best goals per minutes ratio in the division and finished with 23 goals. Murray at Brighton also netted 23 times, showing how important it is to have a striker that has proven Premier League quality leading your bid to climb up to that division. Villa do not have that luxury, but there is still time to sign a striker. However, they can call upon Jonathan Kodija, who banged in 19 goals last season, finishing fifth in the goal scoring charts. He seems to be improving all the time and he can be the 20-plus goal scorer Villa need to mount a title challenge, while Scott Hogan can also chip in with vital goals.

Aim to concede fewer than a goal per game

Three teams scored 85 goals last season: Newcastle, Fulham and Norwich. What set Newcastle  apart was that they conceded just 40 goals, to Fulham’s 57 and Norwich’s 69. Keeping things tight at the back and conceding fewer than a goal per game was crucial to them winning the Championship. With Terry at the heart of the defence there is every chance Villa can emulate that. Brighton were outscored by four teams last season, including 10th placed Brentford, but they too only conceded 40 goals. The Championship is an open league full of goals, so maintaining a tight ship at the back is the best way to stand out and rack up crucial points.

Author bio
Martin Green is an experienced sports writer and tipster. He has covered the Championship for many years

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