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Bournemouth v Aston Villa preview: Time to turn positive pre-season into points

Villa can lay claim to having had one of the more impressive close-seasons in the Premier League.

SPORT COPYRIGHT TIM STURGESS EXPRESS AND STAR...... 09/07/2022..... Walsall v Aston Villa pre season friendly. Pictured, Liam Bennett..
SPORT COPYRIGHT TIM STURGESS EXPRESS AND STAR...... 09/07/2022..... Walsall v Aston Villa pre season friendly. Pictured, Liam Bennett..

Quality signings, positive pre-season performances, a feel-qood factor around the squad and excitement from the fanbase.

And for boss Steven Gerrard, a chance to instil his footballing philosophy into his players with the benefit of a full pre-season. And while the bedrock of the side remains in place from last season, there will likely be changes tomorrow at Bournemouth.

One of the key decisions facing Gerrard will be in defence. If last Saturday’s dress rehearsal in Rennes is anything to go by, Tyrone Mings could start the campaign watching from the bench.

Mings, deposed as Villa skipper in favour of John McGinn last week, saw new recruit Diego Carlos play alongside Ezri Konsa for the trip to Brittany last Saturday.

Aged 29, signed on a four-year deal and – according to Gerrard – having turned down Champions League clubs in favour of the project at Villa Park, Carlos looks set to go straight into the starting XI on the south coast.

Mings issued a classy response to losing the armband at Villa; it will be interesting to see how a player who was almost ever-present last season reacts should he start the new campaign on the sidelines.

In front of the back four, Villa fans will be eager to see how fellow new recruit Boubacar Kamara settles into life in the Premier League.

Brought in from Marseille on a free transfer, the 22-year-old comes with a burgeoning reputation of one as the brightest prospects from Ligue 1 and already has three senior France caps to his name.

Kamara impressed those in claret and blue who made the long journey to Australia and looks ready-made to drop into the Gerrard’s favoured 4-3-3 formation.

The boss will hope Kamara’s athleticism and defensive solidity will allow he likes of captain John McGinn to exercise greater influence on the game in more advanced areas. McGinn in particular could be one of the key beneficiaries of the arrival of Kamara. The Scot has carried much of the midfield workload in the past season – at times sacrificing his own attacking instincts. Fans will hope to see more of their new skipper’s eye for goal this term.

It may be in attack, however, that is likely to prove pivotal to Villa aims to challenge for the European spots. Aside from Philippe Coutinho’s loan move being made permanent, Villa’s attacking personnel is so far unchanged over the summer.

And one player who has most to prove with be Leon Bailey. The Jamaican’s first season at Villa was largely wrecked by injury, albeit with flashes of his potential.

He impressed in pre-season, hitting the net three times in friendlies, and it could be his time to shine. Coutinho appears to have the edge over fan-favourite Emi Buendia in Gerrard’s mind, leaving what’s likely to be a straight choice between Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings for the role of front man in the starting XI.

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