Aston Villa have enjoyed a dream start to the new Premier League campaign, with a 100 per cent record from their opening four games.
Villa only beat the drop by a point last season, but their flying start to the new campaign, which has included a stunning 7-2 win over champions Liverpool, is testament to their impressive recruitment drive over the summer.
Here, the PA news agency looks at five players who have been key to Villa’s early form.
Villa’s talisman and creator-in-chief has three goals and three assists under his belt already this season. Long linked with a move to Manchester United, he signed a new five-year deal in September and has more than proved his worth. The 25-year-old tormented Liverpool with his trickery, scoring twice, and his man-of-the-match performance in the recent friendly win over Wales suggests he will be a regular in the England squad for some time to come.
The Chelsea loanee has hit the ground running at Villa, scoring on his debut against Liverpool before firing in a long-range last-minute winner at Leicester on Sunday. Unable to find a way into the star-studded midfield at Stamford Bridge, Barkley has headed north in a bid to revive his England career ahead of next summer’s European Championships and it could scarcely have gone better for him so far.
The record signing from Brentford, his fee reported to be £28million rising to £33m, has dispelled any doubts about his ability to cut it in the Premier League. The 24-year-old hit a hat-trick in the win over Liverpool and has also been on target twice in the Carabao Cup. For a team whose top scorer last season in all competitions was Grealish with 10, signing a striker who knows where the goal is was always going to be crucial.
The goalkeeper signed from Arsenal has kept three clean sheets in his four league games, saving a penalty on his debut against Sheffield United. Destined to play second fiddle to the fit-again Bernd Leno at the Emirates Stadium, Martinez opted for a move and has proved an inspired buy for a Villa side which has struggled to find a reliable keeper since Tom Heaton suffered a knee injury on New Year’s Day. Even when the Englishman does return to full fitness, he may find Martinez tough to shift.
Another signing from the Championship, Cash has been a solid but unsung presence at right-back since joining from Nottingham Forest in September. The 23-year-old has been instrumental to Villa’s new-found defensive solidity and looked especially impressive in the recent win over Leicester.