Are Aston Villa making early gamble by releasing several senior players after Premier League return?

14th September 2021

The Aston Villa Premier League return has seen several senior players released from their contracts

Barely a week after ending their three-year absence from the Premier League with victory over Derby County in the Championship play-off final, Aston Villa trimmed their squad by letting nine first-team players go.

Every single one of those released was aged 30 or over, so what can be read into that?

Moving senior players on is always a gamble but Dean Smith, who took over at Villa from Steve Bruce in October, is trying to put his stamp on the squad after just one transfer window in charge.

By no means all of those leaving Villa Park were frozen out by the head coach. What seven of nine on their way do have in common, however, is this past season was the final one of their contracts.

Elder statesmen let go by Villa include former Republic of Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan, who recorded a third career promotion with them aged 35.

Although Smith preferred the relative youth of Jack Grealish, Conor Hourihane and John McGinn in the engine room, he still saw the value in playing the veteran.

The same can be said of ex-Scotland full back Alan Hutton, 34, who served seven Villa bosses since arriving in 2011. A hamstring problem essentially called time on his eight years on and off in the West Midlands.

Mile Jedinak, the Australian anchorman, was used more sparingly by Smith and backup goalie Mark Bunn not at all.

A broken ankle for centre back Tommy Elphick following his return from a loan spell with Hull City during the first half of the campaign ended his career with the West Midlands outfit.

Fellow defenders Micah Richards and Richie De Laet were completely out of the picture. The former never recaptured the early promise he showed when coming through the ranks at Manchester City.

Looking to turn loan stars into permanent transfers

De Laet joined Villa as a Premier League title winner from Leicester City and ended up on loan Down Under in the A-League.

So did big money buy Ross McCormack, the striker tasked with firing the club back up, but he fell out with Steve Bruce and has been released early from his contract.

Ghana winger Albert Adomah also had one more year left on his deal at Villa Park, yet is also moving on despite regular involvement under Smith.

The upshot of these departures is the squad looks thin at this early stage of the summer.

While Premier League promotion gives Villa every chance of retaining some of the players they took on loan – notably defender Tyrone Mings, winger Anwar El Ghazi and striker Tammy Abraham – there are no guarantees.

Mings, whose time with Bournemouth has been wrecked by serious injury, faces serious competition for places at his parent club moving forward.

The Cherries never stand still, but nor are Eddie Howe’s side likely to sell cheaply to a rival.

Chelsea frontman Abraham, meanwhile, sees his parent club operating under a transfer ban which may stand despite an appeal.

He hasn’t really proven himself at Premier League level yet and could only benefit from further regular first-team football elsewhere.

Villa do have a buy option on Lille owned Dutch winger El Ghazi, and the same for defender Kortney Hause who joined from West Midlands rivals Wolves.

Even if these are exercised, they look short in defence and lacking cover further forward. For the first time in some years, however, Villa look a more attractive prospect.

Their relegation to the Championship in 2016 had been on the cards for some time with stagnation and then decline the story for several seasons since the Martin O’Neill era.

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