Dean Smith has vowed Aston Villa will continue to progress as he demanded a strong finish to the season.
Smith expects the club to improve further after beating the drop on the final day of last term.
Villa have been comfortable in mid-table this campaign and go to Crystal Palace on Sunday with Smith believing his side are better equipped to challenge in the Premier League.
He said: “We’re building a squad that’s capable of challenging in the top half of this league. There’s been a progression from that period of lockdown to where we are now. We want to keep progressing.
“Our jobs as coaches is to improve each and every player but also team performance. I thought the first half of the season was very good.
“We’ve been a bit hit and miss in the second half of the season but individually you can see we’ve now got better players and more depth for playing in the Premier League.
“That’s something we’ve worked hard to create and they will be better next season from playing this season.”
Villa lost influential skipper Jack Grealish to a shin problem in February and the England international only returned as a second-half substitute in Thursday’s 0-0 draw with Everton.
In 12 games without the midfielder Villa won just three, a run which ended their European hopes, but with Grealish available Smith wants to see a strong finish.
He said: “We’ve got three games in 10 days and we want to get as many points as we can.
“Having 15 clean sheets shows how far we’ve come from walking off that pitch at Leicester in the pouring rain having got beaten 4-0 before going into lockdown (in March 2020).
“There has been real progress at the club. We’re disappointed and frustrated we’ve probably dropped off the pace a bit in the second half of the season but we’ve obviously lost our best player during that period and suffered a Covid outbreak.
“But you’re also competing against very good teams in this league. We’re a little bit disappointed we’ve faded a little bit but there’s been some great progress for us.”