Are Aston Villa stronger or weaker after £100m Jack Grealish sale? The expert view ahead of Everton’s trip

We caught up with BirminghamWorld‘s Ben Ramsdale to get the inside track on the Toffees’ opponents.
Jack Grealish left Aston Villa for Man City duirng the summer. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty ImagesJack Grealish left Aston Villa for Man City duirng the summer. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Jack Grealish left Aston Villa for Man City duirng the summer. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Everton travel to Aston Villa on Saturday aiming to continue their unbeaten start to the Premier League campaign (17.30 kick-off).

Villa had a busy summer transfer window with the £100 million sale of Jack Grealish and bringing Danny Ings, Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendía

We spoke to our BirminghamWorld colleague Ben Ramsdale to get the lowdown on Dean Smith’s side.

Just one win in four for Villa this season but surely the panic buttons aren’t being hit just yet?

Absolutely not. If it becomes one win in 10 then expect multiple panic buttons being smashed out of the park but I just can’t see that.

Dean Smith is building a good squad, a squad capable of achieving things these Villa fans haven’t seen for many years.

Have the results been up to standard based on the first four fixtures? Probably not, no. But the squad has seen a lot of turnover this summer and within that turnover was of course captain Jack Grealish.

Fans understand this and despite the 3-0 loss against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, I think they are beginning to see it all start to click into place.

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith. Picture: Morgan Harlow/Getty ImagesAston Villa manager Dean Smith. Picture: Morgan Harlow/Getty Images
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith. Picture: Morgan Harlow/Getty Images

Are Villa stronger or weaker after selling Jack Grealish but bringing in Danny Ings, Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendía with the funds?

It’s tough to say when you look at the pure quality that Grealish possesses but I’d have to say stronger purely based on the depth.

Yes Grealish was and is a world-class midfielder but he can’t cover all 11 positions on a pitch. His departure allowed for those three names to come in and has in turn given Villa far more options up the top end of the pitch.

Danny Ings guarantees 20 goals a season if he remains fit and to have him backed up by the likes of Bailey and Buendia? It’s stronger for me but time will tell.

What are the expectations among supporters for the season?

It sounds so basic but simply to show improvement on the previous season.

The owners have emphasised their ambition to get this club back into Europe in the coming years and if they are serious about that goal, both they and the fans are going to need to see some evidence of improvement on the pitch.

That’s not to say they need to get into Europe this year or even next but a top-half finish would be a step in the right direction and a cup run certainly wouldn’t go amiss.

Stand out player so far?

Danny Ings is up there simply for his goals and you’d argue that bicycle kick against Newcastle is worthy of him being a stand-out player alone but, for me, it has to go to a player that’s been here in a few years in John McGinn.

Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn. Picture: Michael Regan/Getty ImagesAston Villa midfielder John McGinn. Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn. Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images

The Scottish midfielder has really come into his own since the departure of Grealish. I think he feels he had to step up this year and up to now he certainly has done. He’s a leader on the pitch and even chipped in with a worldie of his own against Watford on the first day of the season.

What’s the latest on the injury front?

Dean Smith revealed in his pre-match press conference that both youngsters Carney Chukwuemeka (groin) and Jaden Philogen-Bidace (ankle) have not trained all week and will be unavailable for selection.

Both picked up their respective knocks whilst on international duty with the England youth team.

Better news for Villa is that Leon Bailey could be in line for his first start after finally catching up to fitness and Bertrand Traore is also pushing for a place in the XI.

Predicted line-up (5-3-2): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Tuanzebe, Mings, Targett, McGinn, Luiz, Traore, Ings, Watkins

Score prediction: 2-2. Both teams pose an abundance of attacking talent and both seem vulnerable to the odd mistake at the back. I can see goals and I can see an entertaining game. I hope Villa nick it but I’ll go for the draw.