[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is all change at Aston Villa this season and it is initially hard to see if the Birmingham-based outfit are in a better position now than they were 12 months ago.
With Tim Sherwood at the helm for the end of last season, the Villa Park side put up a fight to avoid potential relegation, finishing 17th, and making it through to the FA Cup final on the way.
This season has started with four points from four games, as Villa look to push on and have a progressive season.
Sherwood has a virtually new squad to manage this term after a number of key departures and countless arrivals over the off-season.
Key trio Christian Benteke, Ron Vlaar and Fabian Delph have all exited, while three deals on deadline day took the count of new faces to a whopping 13 for the summer window.
Looking at the Villa squad, two wingers with immense potential stand out – but one is clearly on the up, while the other looks set to play a fringe role this term.
Scott Sinclair will be over the moon with the chance to play regularly football once again after a nightmare at Manchester City, while Charles N’Zogbia will wonder just where it has all gone wrong.
Two goals for Sinclair in Villa’s last game, a 2-2 draw against Sunderland, marked the first time the gifted attacker has ever scored a brace in the Premier League, with every chance that his fortunes are set to improve even further.
Given the promise that the former Chelsea youth-team graduate showed in the early days of his career, many would have foreseen Sinclair to have made more of an impact on the game at the top level by the age of 26 than he currently has.
It was at Swansea where the Bath-born forward really shone, scoring 22 goals in a season to get the Liberty Stadium into the top flight before playing an important role in the Welsh side’s first-ever campaign in the Premier League.
Sinclair opted to chase fame and fortune at City, but while he stagnated and rotted away in the Etihad Stadium doldrums, his former club progressed to the next level.
Something of a journeyman due to the constant loan deals through his career, eight in total, the 26-year-old will hope to play consistently and get back to his best.
Early signs are good. With a hat-trick against Notts County in the Capital One Cup also, Sinclair has scored five goals in two games and has an important role to play in a Villa side with ambitions of a top-half finish.
The former Newcastle United attacking midfielder started exactly half of the club’s Premier League fixtures last season but this term looks set to play a role on the fringes.
Sherwood initially seemed like he could get the best of N’Zogbia, with the Frenchman having a productive period under a new manager, but intense recruitment in midfield threatens his future at the club.
The 29-year-old has had his issues over a stop-and-start career, with an inflated sense of self-worth and disciplinary problems taking their toll.
However, on his day and in the right mood, N’Zogbia has proven himself to a dangerous opponent, but these days have come far too seldom of late.
With plenty of others ahead of him in Sherwood’s plans, it could well be a frustrating season for the winger, with Sinclair one of those ahead of him and with good reason.
- Sergio Ramos: I never wanted to leave Real Madrid
- Atletico Madrid turn down Manchester United bid for Kieran Trippier
- Ashley Young could complete Aston Villa transfer in the next 24 hours
- Copa America 2021: Roundup of all the action from Matchday 1
- Arsenal sign Nikita Parris
- Arsenal v Chelsea headlines August; when are the major derbies next season?
- Norwich City, Watford and Brighton opening 2021/22 Premier League fixtures
- Euro 2020: Five things we learnt from Matchday 1
- Arsenal: Five players who could solve Gunner’s midfield dilemma
- Tottenham close in on Paulo Fonseca appointment