By PA Sport Staff
Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard is confident his side can eradicate the inconsistencies of last season and finish in the top half of the Premier League.
After an initial upturn in results following Gerrard’s autumn appointment, Villa slumped in the second half of last term and eventually finished 14th.
Villa have signed Philippe Coutinho on a permanent basis and added Boubacar Kamara, Diego Carlos and Ludwig Augustinsson to their squad and Gerrard is looking upwards.
“We’re very much looking forward and trying to improve our league position and finish in the top half, we want to have positive cup runs as well,” Gerrard said in his pre-match press conference ahead of the opener at Bournemouth.
“We want to try and make our fans happy. We’ve had a smooth pre-season, the application has been superb but now it’s for real.
“I’m confident that we can improve on our inconsistencies last season, that’s the most important thing for me.”
Gerrard has a doubt over Emiliano Buendia ahead of the trip to the south coast.
The Argentina international picked up a thigh injury in a behind-closed-doors friendly with Fulham, but he returned to training on Thursday and will be assessed.
“He trained for the first time yesterday (Thursday) for the first time in a week,” Gerrard said.
“He got an injury in the behind-closed-doors game with Fulham which was disappointing because he was in a right positive place off the back of the Australian tour.
“I’m hoping he’s had no feelings from yesterday’s session because he trained with the group. We’ll analyse that situation tomorrow (Saturday). But, yeah, he’s had a minor setback from his pre-season preparation.”
Tyrone Mings, who has been replaced as captain by John McGinn, has trained all week after a niggle and will be fit to play while Calum Chambers has recovered from illness.
Cameron Archer has signed a new five-year contract with the club.
The England under-21 international, who spent time on loan at Preston last season, has committed himself to Villa until 2027.
The 20-year-old, who has scored four goals in six first-team appearances for Villa, will be part of Gerrard’s Premier League squad his season.