Boss Dean Smith insists Aston Villa’s improvement this season is no surprise.
They host Chelsea on the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday guaranteed to finish 11th.
It comes after Villa beat the drop on the final day last season and will be the club’s highest finish for 10 years.
Smith said: “It pleases me, but it doesn’t surprise me. The performances have been there – there has been an inconsistency since our COVID break, we know that.
“To finish 11th, which is where we will finish now, is an improvement of six places and that’s with only bringing five players in.
“I’m very pleased, in general, with how the players have performed and improved. That will continue.
“I look at our team and from Emi Martinez, Matt Cash, Matt Targett, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings – they’re all improving.
“In front of them, you’ve got John McGinn, Jack Grealish, Ollie Watkins, Bertrand Traore – it’s a squad that’s getting better and better.
“That’s the positive outlook for me. We’ve had an injury to Jack this season where we lost him for 13 games, and that’s been pivotal to where we’ve finished in the league.
“It’s easy to say we’re not a one-man team but certainly our creativity has suffered a drop as any team would.
“That’s what we need to get better at. If Jack is ever missing games other players need to step up and I’m sure they will having had this extra year in the Premier League.”
Chelsea are looking to qualify for the Champions League and are third, ahead of Leicester and Liverpool by a point, and Smith has been impressed with the job Thomas Tuchel has done since arriving at Stamford Bridge in January.
He added: “He’s had a great start. They qualified for the FA Cup final, Champions League final and now they’re trying to qualify for the Champions League via the top four.
“He’s come in and done exactly what he’s been asked to do so far. Now it’s our job to put an end to their away record.
“We’ll be going hell for leather to try and do that.”
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