For all intents and purposes, Villa are down. Eight points from safety with ten games remaining, the Birmigham side may not mathematically be down but it would take a turnaround of epic proportions, far greater than Leicester’s last season, for them to avoid the drop.
The Foxes were playing well before their turnaround, that’s the key difference. Villa have not played well all season and now their ever-present status in the Premier League looks like it’s finally coming to an end.
Remi Garde’s appointment back in November has failed spectacularly in it’s attempts to turn the side’s fortunes around, their performances arguably even worse than under Tim Sherwood. Seeing this famous old club, European Cup winners as recently as 1982, in the second tier of English football will be a shock to many, not just their own fans.
They follow the likes of Leeds, Nottingham Forest and other giant’s of the English game that have fallen out of the top-flight in modern times and into the Championship. Those two clubs, of similar size and standing to Villa, still remain in the second tier of course, floating around in mid-table and unable to match the glory of their historic standing in English football.
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Countless ‘big clubs’ have slipped out of the top division and struggled to return. Some fall even further down the league ladder whilst many stagnate in the ultra-competitive Championship.
What fate awaits Villa only time will tell, but history suggests that they will struggle to get back up at the first attempt.
Only about a fifth of sides that drop down to the second tier achieve immediate promotion, at least in the play-off era. Norwich did last season and Burnley are making a good fist at it this, but on the whole the odds seem stacked against Remi Garde’s side.
More likely is that they struggle to come to terms with life in the Championship, the tough tackling and quick turnaround of games a shock to the system for many of their pampered Premier League stars. Even worse, they could follow the likes of Portsmouth, Wigan or Charlton who all dropped down further following their initial relegation.
After three years you’re as statistically likely to be relegated again as you are to win the league, food for thought for the club and it’s supporters. The stats may suggest that Villa are unlikely to bounce back at the first attempt, or in fact at all, but the players and character of the side also point to a side destined to struggle.
Looking around the Villa squad, you don’t see many leaders. The side seem devoid of any spirit and if there’s one thing you need to bounce straight back up at the first attempt, it’s spirit. Even in an age of parachute payments, the riches available to relegated clubs are no guarantee of an immediate return.
They do have a handful of players with Championship experience of course, the likes of Rudy Gestede and Joleon Lescott having played plenty of games, for Blackburn and Wolves respectively, in the second tier. Their experience may be crucial in the cut and thrust of the Championship but many other squad members – the likes of Carlos Sanchez, Leandro Bacuna or Jordan Ayew and so on – seem likely to struggle to adapt.
The manager too, while undoubtedly a talented coach – as evidenced by his time at Lyon, is far more used to life near the top of the league than the current predicament he finds himself in. Should he manage to keep Villa competitive near the top of the Championship he will have done a fine job, but he hardly seem’s like the most vociferous and inspirational manager in the world, and you wonder how he will cope with the very different atmosphere of England’s second tier.
All in all, it doesn’t look good for the Claret and Blue’s. Statistics weigh heavily against them, whilst squad depth, mentality and just plain quality seem to suggest Villa are far more likely to go the way of Portsmouth or Wigan than they are to do a Norwich or West Ham.
Should he stay at the club, Remi Garde will have a tough task of rebuilding the squad, rousing the troops and stemming the flow of the downward spiral the club have been in under the ownership of Randy Lerner.