This season looks to be the last in the top flight for Aston Villa for a little while, and it will be a shock for the club as it’s been the place they have called home since 1988. The former champions of England and Europe are now staring relegation in the face, sitting 12 points below safety with seven games to go. Many thought that Tim Sherwood, after leading the team to an FA Cup final was the man to bring something special.
However in October, fans everywhere were shocked to see Sherwood sacked and then replaced by former Lyon boss Remi Garde, whom had no previous experience of managing in the Premier League. Of course the Frenchman has now been sacked with an appalling win rate of 13.04%, leaving the team with no figure-head and a squad full of high-earning, under-performing players. But just who is to blame for the teams poor turn in form?
Well considering that Sherwood installed a new confidence within the side, I highly doubt he is the villain for the Villans. It would appear that he did not have full control of the transfers last summer, highlighted by some very questionable deals in July. The early signings of Scott Sinclair, Micah Richards, Mark Bunn, and then Rudy Gestede and Joleon Lescott all looked to be players Sherwood would know and could easily implement in his squad. But, then their were additions that many fans were not familiar with: Idrissa Gueye, Jordan Amavi, Jordan Ayew, Jose Angel Crespo, Jordan Veretout, Adama Traore and Matija Sarkic. All these players were relatively unknown, and the only one that has had any real first-team impact has been Amavi… but he’s now injured.
It looked early on in the season that owner Randy Lerner had fully lost the plot at Villa. After a few years of success, the Villans have struggled and been rooted near the bottom of the table for a while. Lerner has not kept quiet about his desire to leave, but after various sales looked to have gone through and failed, the only losers are Villa and their fans. If all the talent that the club has had had been kept rather than cashed in on, then their side could line up like this:
Shay Given, Ashley Young, James Collins, Gary Cahill, Stewart Downing, Gareth Barry, Craig Gardner, Fabian Delph, Marc Albrighton, James Milner and Christian Benteke.
Okay, it’s hard to keep some players at the club, but there’s a feeling that many have been freed too soon. Villa used to entice talent to make names for themselves, but ultimately, like cattle, the top players were sold for big prices and never replaced.
In a transfer window that saw big stars such as Benteke, Delph and then the experience of Given, Andreas Wiemann, Darren Bent and Tom Cleverley leave, they should have been replaced with Premier League-proven talent. Instead unknown players have been brought in and struggled to cope. The areas they needed to strengthen have been neglected, with the need for a good winger, a couple of good strikers and a better goalkeeper to replace Brad Guzan completely overlooked.
Under Martin O’Neill Villa tried to punch above their weight and get Champions League football, but this current side are a far cry from that oh so impressive unit. The blame can’t be put solely at the feet of Garde, who was not been given the support of the players and the board, but it has to be at the owner. When Villa do inevitably drop down, it will be a sad day, as this is a club with a rich history and a devoted following.