Three Aston Villa academy players who can break into first-team ranks in 2023/24
Over recent years Aston Villa have possessed one of the brightest academies in English football, but considering the wealth of talent at the club’s disposal, far too few have risen the ranks into the first-team.
Apart from the likes of Jack Grealish, Jacob Ramsey and even Cameron Archer, a large percentage of academy players at Bodymoor Heath academy have struggled to bridge the gap to regular action at Villa Park.
With Unai Emery now at the helm, opportunities will be as hard as ever to gain, but there are a few players who stand a realistic chance of featuring prominently in the 2023/24 season.
Looking at Aston Villa’s midfield ranks right now, there is certainly a spot for Iroegbunam to shine. Behind first-choice duo Boubacar Kamara and Douglas Luiz, there is little depth to Emery’s central midfield options.
Leander Dendoncker is currently occupying the bench, but Iroegbunam could be one to watch over the summer and to see if Emery takes a liking to him.
The 19-year-old has been a standout player while on loan at QPR this season and was especially strong when working under Michael Beale at the beginning of the season.
Iroegbunam is a deep-lying central midfielder who looks to break play up and dictate the tempo of a match from the base of midfield – in a very similar vein to Kamara.
After scoring his first professional goal in QPR’s 3-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers last week (25 February), it seems Iroegbunam is making all the right noises towards playing a part in Emery’s squad next season.
The club’s treatment of Kesler-Hayden has been a little strange this season, but there is no doubt the right-back has the qualities to be a first-team regular at Villa Park.
After a strong first half of the season on loan at Huddersfield Town – in which he was named in the Championship team of the month for December – the 20-year-old was recalled by Villa but not warranted a second loan spell of the season.
The former FA Youth winner is now plying his trade with the Under-21s, but he is clearly a cut above the academy level. The right-back is an attacking live-wire and loves bombing forward into the final third.
With the future of Ashley Young beyond this season still very much up in the air, Kesler-Hayden certainly stands a chance of being an understudy for Matty Cash next term.
Archer is the most obvious pick of the three academy products, but justifiably so.
Time and time again, the England Under-21 international exceeds expectations, having shone in the Villa academy ranks, scored goals while on loan at Preston last season and now lighting up the Championship once more while on loan at Middlesbrough.
So far under Michael Carrick, Archer has scored three goals and provided two assists in just eight appearances – including a clinical brace against promotion rivals Sheffield United.
Although Emery is likely to strengthen his attacking ranks in the summer transfer window, Archer must be given the opportunity to light up the Premier League on a weekly basis.
Under Steven Gerrard, the 21-year-old always played second fiddle to both Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings, but after his blistering start to life at the Riverside Stadium, it will be hard to deny him of first-team action at Aston Villa next season.
In other Aston Villa news, one of the club’s rising stars can end a barren academy run going back to Jack Grealish.