After barely afloat in their first season in the Premier League, many fans didn’t give them much hope of surviving next time.

Villa, on the final day of the 2019-20 season, beat the deficit by one point after a 1-1 draw at West Ham – with club hero Jack Grealish scoring the goal that ultimately kept his top status intact.

Despite their survival, the signs for Villa weren’t so good, and Dean Smith had been scrutinized after some lackluster and underperformance in the Premier League when they were served a reality check against England’s elite.

Aston Villa surprised many last season and finished 11th after a quick start to the season.

Dean Smith is now desperate to see his team carry on, and Villa has been active in the market

But as always, the summer transfer window gives clubs a chance to mitigate any negativity, and Villa embodied that – by signing Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez on loan as well as Ollie Watkins and Matty Cash and Ross Barkley for a season.

Villa carried the positive attitude from the transfer window into the new season and won the first four games in the Premier League, including a breathtaking 7-2 win over reigning champions Liverpool at Villa Park.

Their signings – including Martinez, Watkins and Barkley – soared as Grealish emerged as one of the standout players in the Premier League, and they drove tremendous momentum. Relegation critics had suddenly been silenced and looked up.

At one point they were even considered contenders for a European place, but a shin injury to captain and star player Grealish put an end to that.

However, despite tough results towards the end of the campaign that saw Grealish fail, they still managed to finish 11th with 55 points, a whopping 20 more than in the 2019-20 season as they took some impressive wins against Liverpool and Tottenham, among others, complete the double over Arsenal.

Villa, one of England’s most historic clubs, showed he was serious. And they didn’t stop there.

Midfielder Emiliano Buendia was signed by Norwich for a record club fee of £ 40m

Midfielder Emiliano Buendia was signed by Norwich for a record club fee of £ 40million

Villa attacked again in the transfer window, with owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens giving massive backing to help restore the good times in the West Midlands.

Villa had started her summer business in style, bringing Emiliano Buendia from Norwich to the club on a five-year deal for a record £ 40million.

Sports mail reported at the time that Villa had even overtaken Arsenal in the battle for Buendia’s signature after agreeing to pay £ 33 million plus surcharges of up to £ 40 million and a sales percentage.

It looks like a big signing for Villa as Buendia was named Norwich’s Player of the Season in winning the championship – scoring 15 goals and taking in 16 assists.

Buendia, who will compete alongside Grealish next season, is an extremely exciting prospect for fans of the club and you can certainly expect some very lively games at Villa Park.

Villa also made important experiences by bringing Ashley Young on a free transfer

Villa also made important experiences by bringing Ashley Young on a free transfer

Just a week later, Villa announced that Ashley Young had returned for a free transfer after his contract with Serie A champions Inter Milan had expired.

Young, whose versatility could prove to be key to Smith’s men, will bring some vital experience and a winning mentality to a relatively young and exciting Premier League side too – having won the Premier League, FA Cup, Europa League and Carabao with United Cup while also advancing Serie A with Inter under Antonio Conte.

But if you thought Villa’s summer business was slowing down after the Young and Buendia signings, you’d be wrong.

And perhaps her pursuit of Emile Smith Rowe shows just how ambitious Villa is in planning next season.

Smith Rowe was one of Arsenal’s top players and one of the premier league talents last season after a brilliant breakthrough campaign for the English youngster.

Along with Bukayo Saka, Smith Rowe could potentially usher in an exciting new era in north London, but Villa is circling.

Villa has made Smith Rowe her primary transfer target despite already signing her co-creator Buendia.

Villa isn’t giving up on the hunt for Arsenal youngster Emile Smith Rowe this summer

Villa have already turned down two offers for Smith Rowe, the second worth around £ 30million, but haven’t given up hope of winning the England U21 international.

Although Arsenal are desperate to keep their star youngster after turning down two offers, Villa is now preparing a third offer for Smith Rowe. You certainly won’t be going anywhere.

The Midlands club had offered £ 25m for the attacking midfielder for the first time last month. That was beaten back by Arsenal, which reacted the same way when Villa returned with a higher offer valued at £ 5m more.

Arsenal are very unlikely to endorse Villas third offer as they are looking to tie him to a lucrative long-term deal.

But again, Villa shows they mean business and their Premier League rivals are sure to take note.

After running out at the end of last season, Villa is now clearly planning to crash the Premier League Big Six and emulate Leicester after their remarkable rise.

While Leicester’s fates could provide some inspiration, Smith – a youth villa fan – will look closer to home and hope to recreate the days under Martin O’Neill.

After a difficult first season in the 2006-07 season, Villa under O’Neill celebrated three consecutive sixth spots in the Premier League as they threatened to advance to the Champions League.

Villa is doing everything possible to keep Captain and Starman Jack Grealish

Villa is doing everything possible to keep Captain and Starman Jack Grealish

It is of course a very big request to Smith to emulate O’Neill’s success, but with clouds still hovering over Arsenal and Tottenham after tumultuous campaigns, Villa can imagine her chances.

But all dreams of fighting the big boys of the Premier League surely depend on the future of Jack Grealish.

Grealish was heavily linked to a mega-money move to Premier League champions Manchester City this summer after his staggering 2020-21 season which saw him earn his spot on the English squad.

Sports mail In late June, City announced that City was looking to break the UK transfer record for Grealish and is confident of securing a £ 100m deal for the midfielder.

But Villa is desperate to continue his promotion to the Premier League and is doing everything possible to keep his captain – with the club reportedly looking to arrange a one-year contract extension with Grealish that would bring his salary over £ 150,000 a year -week.

And if the club can entice fan favorite Grealish to stick around, Villa fans could pick up some momentum next season.

With Watford, Newcastle and Brentford next season, Villa has the potential for another quick start to the Premier League and then may dream of bigger and better things.