Aston Villa’s 2018/19 campaign went above and beyond expectation.
Hit with financial trouble last summer, the club were bought by Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens. In the process, they saved the football club and with the help of Dean Smith who replaced Steve Bruce last October, the platform was set.
After suffering play-off final heartbreak last year, bouncing back in the way they did took steel and determination.
But a different type of character will now be required. Villa officials surely have bigger ambitions than merely fighting for survival next term, but that must be the focus before anything else.
Ahead of a return to the Premier League, the Villans have already been busy in the transfer window. Last week they confirmed the signing of Jota from Birmingham whilst Anwar El Ghazi has also signed on a permanent deal after his loan spell came to an end.
Both wingers, it’s an indication of where Smith’s men will have to significantly improve in 2019/20.
El Ghazi was inconsistent at times throughout the last term but he more than deserves his permanent move. Jota, on the other hand, is a more questionable transfer.
However, two men who could go some way to solving the issues that largely still remain on the flanks are Harry Wilson and Said Benrahma.
The former was the subject of a report from The Mirror last week suggesting that Liverpool would command £21m for his services amid interest from the Midlands club.
But what would the pair offer if one of them did make the move to Villa Park this summer?
The instant go-to statistic when comparing the two wide players is the number of goals they scored in the Championship last season.
In 43 matches, Wilson notched 16 goals, finding the net with a combination of set pieces and strikes from open play.
In comparison, Benrahma scored just ten goals, but he played in five fewer matches. He also made nine appearances from the substitutes bench. But what’s interesting is that despite the number of goals scored, the Bees wide man averaged more shots per game.
Last season, Andre Green and Albert Adomah scored just five goals between. The difference in quality two of Villa’s transfer targets could offer, therefore, is massive.
The pair are capable of playing on either flank, something that could be pivotal in helping to solve Villa’s problematic wide area.
Yet, it’s in terms of classic wing play that arguably makes the Algerian a better option.
The 23-year-old is sensational with the ball at his feet, regularly getting himself out of tight spaces with his quick movement.
For Brentford last term he showed how good he can be in one-on-one situations and it’s that aspect of his game that could be game changing. In his first year in England he completed 2.4 dribbles per game, whereas Wilson only managed 0.5.
If you compare that to members of the Villa team, the only two players who come close are John McGinn and Jack Grealish who racked up 1.9 and 1.8 respectively. Benrahma, then, would address a clear gap in the current Villa squad – the absence of a player who can really run at opposition defenders.
In a Premier League season where scoring goals to keep them in the division will be important, Wilson perhaps offers a favourable solution in that regard.
However, the more all rounded aspect of Benrahma’s play when positioned on the flanks would be far more beneficial for what the Villans are missing, particularly if you assess the 14 assists he claimed.
If Smith can reunite with a man he only brought to English football last summer, it would be a masterstroke.