COMMENT By Graham Hill
JOHN McGinn last week admitted he hopes Villa can emulate Wolves in the Premier League next season – but how strong is that comparison?
Villa will return to the elite with high hopes of making a real impression on the top flight again.
Despite the problems of recent years under ex-owner Randy Lerner, it is worth remembering that Villa were considered top six regulars until 2010.
Much has changed since then, but the strength of the club – in the right hands – means they have the capability to hit the heights once more.
It is only a decade ago that Villa were talking of being a top four side. Ten years is a long time in terms of the Premier League though – and anyone expecting an immediate challenge to the dominance of the top six may be disappointed.
This could be a long term project.
For a start, there is a queue of clubs looking to break into the supposed monopoly of ‘big’ clubs.
Wolves are one and Leicester – former Champions – are another.
Villa will aim to gatecrash that group, but it may not be next season.
Midfielder McGinn’s comments were made after seeing Wolves win promotion, then finish seventh in the table and qualify for the Europa League.
They did that with major backing from China – the sort Villa now have in the shape of Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris.
But it is worth remembering that Wolves barely changed their Championship title winning squad last summer – except for a few key additions such as Joao Moutinho and Raul Jimenez.
Their core was a solid one and they had already top-rated players such as Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota on board as well as a defence that stayed settled through the transition from second tier to top flight.
Villa boss Dean Smith faces a different challenge. Yes, he has Jack Grealish and John McGinn to build a new side around.
But many of the key players from this season were on loan or have been released with a new, younger breed of player being targeted.
Smith will bring some of those loan players back on permanent deals, but he also has fresh faces in mind and they will need to gel quickly – especially up front – and the Premier League will not wait for that to happen.
Wolves may have impressed but even they suffered defeats to some of the top flight’s weaker sides.
They flourished against the stronger teams who allowed them more space.
And Grealish should delight in the new found space he will get instead of being targeted and kicked by Championship rivals desperately trying – and generally failing – to stop him playing his regular game.
A season of consolidation would be no bad thing for Villa, but with the wealth they now have, it will not be too many years before they are matching Wolves’s ambitions.