2019/2020 Season Review
As I always do, I left the arrangement of friendlies to my Assistant Manager, which resulted in an extremely easy pre-season (with the exception of one loss, which came despite completely dominating the game). The main thing was that everyone got plenty of football and therefore match fitness.
I was hoping for an easy first game back in the Premier League, but then the fixtures were announced. We were given a difficult game first up at home to Chelsea, but then came three games that could all be targeted for points. After a fantastic (and well deserved) 2-0 win over Chelsea boosted confidence, two further wins and a draw followed to leave us joint top at the end of August. The only blip was an early exit from the Carabao Cup, where a much-weakened team lost to Cardiff.
Due to the international break only three fixtures were played in September, with some startling results (none more so than the 7-4 victory at Goodison Park). 13 goals in the three games resulted in three more wins and top spot in the league.
October was another great month, with only three fixtures played again due to International commitments. A very creditable draw at home to Manchester City and wins away at Leicester and Sheffield United saw us retain top spot and our unbeaten record (8 wins and 2 draws).
After beginning the month with a win at home to Crystal Palace an extremely tough run followed, defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United were followed up by a draw with Spurs. This saw us drop to fourth place in a very congested top end of the table.
After such a tough November, December gave us a favourable run of fixtures which resulted in a 10-point return from a possible 15. This saw us jump back into second place behind Liverpool, who were starting to pull away from the chasing pack.
With January came the FA Cup Third round and subsequently the first real need for rotation of the squad. We scraped through after extra time in the replay, before suffering defeat to Norwich in the Fourth Round. Three wins and two defeats in the league saw us drop back into fourth, still clinging to a Champions League place.
After a stunning 5-1 win over Chelsea we were on a high but were quickly brought back down to earth with a 4-2 home defeat by run-away leaders Liverpool. 4 points from the other two games provided a solid return and kept us in a Champions League spot.
An unbelievably quiet month saw us pick up 4-1 victories in our only two games and moved us up to third place. This put us some way clear of fifth place and a Champions League spot was unbelievably looking likely.
Another very tough month resulted in only 7 points from a possible 15 and dropped us back into 4th place with the chasing pack closing the gap. After the defeat by Spurs, a game we dominated from start to finish, they were now only 4 points behind with a game in hand. By the end of the month they had taken advantage of the game in hand and gone above us by a single point with three games remaining.
May was going to be very much “squeaky bum time”, but with three very winnable games things looked promising, and the pressure now switched to Spurs to retain their Champions League place. A nervy 2-1 win over Watford, coupled with Spurs draw at Old Trafford, put us a point above them and back in control of our own destiny in the race for the top four. Draws for both of us in the penultimate round of games meant the battle was going into the final game(s) of the season with only a single point difference, but with Spurs crucially having a considerably better goal difference.
In the final game of the season Wolves scored with their first three shots of the game to lead 3-0 after 15 minutes. Despite our best efforts, and completely dominating the game, no more goals were scored and it looked like a heart-breaking end to the season. Total devastation quickly turned to elation with the news that Spurs had lost 2-1 at West Ham, both West Ham goals (including an 83rd minute winner) scored by Robert Snodgrass who had been on loan at Villa in the 2017/2018 season and become a huge fan favourite.
Less than a year after being promoted from the Championship Villa had remarkably qualified for the Champions League and the financial windfall that comes with it.
The squad performed brilliantly, with Wesley and Edouard both breaking the 20 goal barrier and Trezeguet weighing in with 8 goals and 12 assists in his debut season. My best signing was without doubt Rafa Soares who scored 2 goals and assisted 12 times from the wing-back position, having cost a bargain £2.8m.
Stay tuned for updates on the new season and thanks for reading!