Aston Villa 2019/2020 Review: End of Season Report Card for the Villans

Trezeguet, Dean Smith
Aston Villa are staying up | Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

What a rollercoaster season it was for Aston Villa.

Sat in 19th place prior to the Premier League's coronavirus induced suspension, Dean Smith's side
seemed destined for a return to Championship football. Yet, a late string of positive results saw them leapfrog both Watford and Bournemouth to ensure they retained Premier League status for the 2020/21 season.

Here's a breakdown of Villa's first season back in the top flight.

League Performance

Premier League: 17th

There were certainly reasons for Villa fans to be optimistic at the beginning of the 2019/20 season. The strongest of these reasons? Having money- a whole heap of money, in fact.

Villa's owners went big in the transfer market, spending a whopping £146m on a wide variety of players as they looked to reinstate themselves as a permanent fixture in the division. When John McGinn's shot nestled in the far corner of Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris's net in Villa's first game, that heavy investment seemed immediately vindicated.

But just 20 minutes later, with Spurs now leading 3-1 and the game flipped on its head, Villa had been swiftly reminded that throwing a huge wad of cash at a load of players doesn't necessarily mean success: cc Fulham 2018/19.

Winning games would become somewhat of a rarity for Villa, as they only managed back to back victories once during the whole season.

After a dismal run of two points from ten games either side of the restart, it seemed almost certain that Villa's expensive gamble had not paid off. A 2-0 against Crystal Palace, however, gave the Lions the boost they needed to stage an unlikely escape from the looming threat of relegation. A draw with Everton followed by a memorable home win against Arsenal meant that Villa's survival would go down to a nail-biting final day finish.

After a dismal run of two points from ten games either side of the restart, it seemed almost certain that Villa's expensive gamble had not paid off. A 2-0 against Crystal Palace, however, gave the Lions the boost they needed to stage an unlikely escape from the looming threat of relegation. A draw with Everton followed by a memorable home win against Arsenal meant that Villa's survival would go down to a nail-biting final day finish.

Needing only a point against West Ham, due to results elsewhere, who better to secure Villa's Premier League status than Mr Villa himself: Jack Grealish.

It may have been his last goal for the club but it's one that will go down in folklore amongst the Villa faithful. Despite the following celebrations drawing disdain from Roy Keane, given the remarkable nature of their survival, I think we can forgive them for being a bit jubilant.

Domestic Cup Performance

Jack Grealish, Marvelous Nakamba
Villa booked a surprise place at Wembley | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Carabao Cup: Final

After easily brushing aside Crewe in their first game, Villa faced a tough string of games against Premier League opposition.

But Smith's side weren't fazed and after beating Brighton and Wolves, they dispatched a Liverpool juniors outfit - they were prioritising the Club World Cup, you see - 5-0 in the quarter-finals. Things didn't get any easier against high flying Leicester, but Brendan Rodgers' side were dramatically overcome in a tense two-legged semi-final - setting up a final with Manchester City at Wembley.

Many expected Pep's boys to steamroller Villa, but they actually didn't; a closely contested game going the way of City by two goals to one.

FA Cup: Third Round

Well, can't have it all in the cup competitions, can you? Sadly, Villa exited the FA Cup at the earliest opportunity - going down in the third round at Championship promotion hopefuls Fulham. Less said about this one the better.

Best Player

Jack Grealish
Villa's star man | Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

It'll come as no surprise to learn that Jack Grealish has been Villa's standout player.

The Birmingham born midfielder has been in scintillating form and is thoroughly deserving of the attention he's receiving from Manchester United, among others. With more appearances and minutes than anyone else, Grealish has been an ever-present in Villa's side - grabbing eight goals and six assists in the process.

If Villa want to stay up next year, they need to do everything they can to persuade him to stay put.

Worst Player

Danny Drinkwater
A loan spell to forget for the Chelsea man | Michael Regan/Getty Images

He came, he saw, he headbutted his teammate, he left.

Not quite the impression Danny Drinkwater would have wanted to make, but that's exactly how things panned out after an equally shambolic loan at Burnley earlier in the season. Made just four appearances during his brief stay, heading back to Stamford Bridge after targeting Jota in training for reasons publicly unknown.

The Manager

Dean Smith
Villa's manager survived- just. | Clive Mason/Getty Images

With reports of Smith's potential sacking circulating weekly, it seemed unlikely he would last the season.

Villa's owners chose to stick with their man, however, and with their status as a Premier League team for next season confirmed, it appears they made the right decision. Still, that hasn't stopped rumours of his imminent demise from circulating just a day after keeping them afloat.

Overall Grade

With such heavy investment in the summer, many would have been expecting Villa to do better than scraping out of trouble on the final day.

But given the situation they were in just a few games ago, the club have to be satisfied with how things have turned out - and shoud remain optimistic for the future.

Grade: B-