Out of football for a few years, but thrown back into the deep end at a club in dire straits. Still without a win since opening day and with the rest of the league thinking they can just turn up and beat Villa these days, it doesn’t look good for the Midlands club.
It appeared like Remi Garde was a man who really wanted to kiss goodbye to a career in football management by taking this one on.
Except, as Garde himself says, Villa are in a false league position, bottom of the table and cut adrift from those outside the red-zone. Villa really shouldn’t have been looking at just surviving this season. They may have lost their two best players, but they’ve spent so much money last summer that you’d imagine that they could do a lot better than last place.
The truth is, though, that Villa have a lot of technical players who look very good. Players like Carles Gil, Jordan Veretout and Idrissa Gana look like they belong at a decent Premier League club. It’s just that Tim Sherwood clearly had no idea how to use them.
The whole thing smacks of a ‘transfer committee’ vs manager tug of war.
Over the summer, those above Sherwood clearly identified players they liked, put the time and effort into scouting these technically proficient French players who should be playing at a level higher than they were at.
Sherwood, having ideas of his own it seemed, was given Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards as compensation for having more technical young talent foisted upon him. ‘Tactics Tim’ just couldn’t cope.
But then the problem doesn’t just rest with Sherwood. The problem surely rests with the board, the executives and those who thought that Tim Sherwood was the manager to get the best out of the players bestowed upon him last summer.
Sherwood was the short-term filler for Villa. He was the man whose confidence got his players playing with vim and vigour. But long-term, when what was needed was a way to get his players to line up solidly at the back and giving them a platform upon which to attack, Sherwood stuck to his guns.
Without ever having been present at a Tim Sherwood team talk, I can’t really judge this. But it seems like Sherwood is a good man manager. When you hear the way players like Micah Richards and Jack Grealish speak of him and thank him and talk of their sorrow at his departure, and this shows that they held him in high regard, not necessarily for his tactical ability, but at least for his charisma and his faith in them.
Sherwood was like a doctor with no discernible medical skills, but a great bedside manner. Garde, on the other hand, is the ace surgeon with technical skills to die for, and we’ll just have to wait and see how his bedside manner is in England.
But the good signs are there for Villa. Garde’s success in France came under great pressure. Lyon were under great financial strain and were clinging onto success with their fingernails. So to bring through some great young players as well as win a French cup and keep Lyon one of France’s top clubs is a great achievement.
At Villa, his baptism of fire against league leaders Manchester City resulted in a draw, but it was a game they may have won.
City dominated, but they were restricted to very few good chances, and Villa worried Manuel Pellegrini with their counter attacks.
They looked more like a team who can compete at the top level. They defended as a unit, they were compact, they were difficult to break down. This wasn’t a Sherwood all guns blazing performance, this wasn’t a game where someone had told the players to ‘give 110%’ or to ‘just go out and express yourselves’. This was an altogether more cerebral approach.
Vicente Del Bosque told the Guardian’s Sid Lowe that English football no longer has a distinct style and is just like the rest of Europe. Because of the influx of foreign players and managers, English football has become more thoughtful, no longer an all-guns-blazing ode to stamina and strength.
That may be lamentable, it probably is. But you have to set up for the league you play in, not the league you want to play in. And in Garde, Villa have the manager they need, even if he’s not the one they want.