Tim Sherwood Record
Now that Villa have an international break Sherwood has had plenty of time to prepare for the Man United clash next month. After six games in charge, Sherwood has managed six points from five league games – as well as helping Villa get to Wembley (he currently holds a 50% win ratio in all games). The victories under the ex-Tottenham man have raised morale in B6 but there have also been worrying moments and the home loss against Swansea was a step backwards for the Sherwood revolution. Now that Sherwood has had a few games at Villa, we take a look at what we’ve learned under the new manager so far.
Some Things Never Change
Impressively, Sherwood has been able to quickly implement a more attacking style of football, building on the strengths of the players at his disposal. Even when results haven’t gone our way we’ve generally seen better performances, a welcome change from the cautious approach employed by Paul Lambert.
Despite this, old habits die hard, and Villa have shown that some of the traits of recent years unfortunately still remain. We have conceded late goals with a worrying regularity over the past couple of seasons and with Sherwood at the helm it has continued to cost Villa precious points.
OK, Vlaar’s penalty gift against Stoke was perhaps more attributable to human error but after doing a good job of staying in the game against Swansea we switched off in the 87th minute.
Villa’s recurring habit of conceding after good spells in matches is costing us at a stage in which every point is vital. In fairness we have only conceded twice in the last three league games but in order to boost our survival hopes, resolute defending and better concentration is a must.
The potential was there
One of the most commonly used arguments against the sacking of Paul Lambert was that no manager would do a better job with the squad at hand. But those who believed that Villa should not be fighting relegation with the team assembled by Lambert have, largely, been proven to be right.
Villa always look at their best when they’re counter-attacking with pace and this has been wisely utilised by Sherwood. We’ve been scoring more goals, creating more chances, and we’re generally much more entertaining to watch
Sherwood recently said that if Villa do stay up, we’ll never be in a relegation battle again. With the likes of even N’Zogbia and Agbonlahor impressing of late, it seems that if we do actually stay up, Sherwood might be in with a chance of fulfilling this ambitious statement – if relegation is avoided.
One thing that has been clear in the last six games is that Sherwood seems to be able to turn things around at half-time. As alluded to by Shay Given recently, Sherwood is not one to shy from the hairdryer treatment and this has been evident. In the Baggies FA Cup match, for instance, there was a notable improvement in the team’s performance in the second half. We also saw a slightly brighter performance against Swansea in the second half too.
In terms of motivation, it has been pleasing for Villa fans to see Sherwood put pressure on the players by referring to the size and stature of Aston Villa Football Club. Despite this, the boss has been balanced in his assessments of the squad and he’s also been quick to praise Villa’s ability to “hurt” rival teams, for instance.
Whether or not Sherwood’s bold statements (Villa’s players “aren’t suited” to a relegation battle) are proven right or wrong, it’s reassuring for the fans to know Sherwood expects a lot from his squad, even if it’s not always realistic.
The Twelfth Man
The arrival of a new manager and the feel-good factor that comes with it has boosted the attendances at Villa Park. The Holte End has been reinvigorated and the general atmosphere has improved. Re-watch the highlights from the Baggies cup win – just listen to the noise!
Judging by the improving quality of performances, the buzz that has followed Sherwood’s appointment and has been transferred to the crowd has proven one thing – the Holte End really can be the twelfth man.
Knows His Squad
While Sherwood has greatly improved the performances of certain players he also seems willing to stick with the same squad. There have been few changes in formation or personnel during his first six matches in charge, a positive move that should result in an established and settled system.
While there are of course positives to this approach it has led to fans asking a few questions – most notably about Carles Gil. The ex-Valencia winger was a rare highlight over the past few months but has found opportunities limited under Sherwood. Aside from 60 minutes against Stoke in Sherwood’s first match and a cameo appearance in the FA Cup against West Brom, he’s been notable by his absence.
For whatever reason he doesn’t seem to be in favour by Sherwood, but as a player with clear ability, it would be nice to think he remains in future plans.
What to Expect from Sherwood’s Next Few Matches
Amidst the turmoil of the 2014/15 season who’d have thought we’d be going to Wembley? While it’s for a semi-final (at the moment), it’s been a welcome cause for excitement amongst Villa supporters. Still, for yet another season we find ourselves eyeing the bottom of the table as Villa battle relegation – could a trip to Wembley provide something of a distraction?
Villa have a few games to go before the big Wembley encounter, facing Man United, QPR and Spurs. While it’s unlikely, there’s a risk that players look forward to and save themselves for the occasion, at the expense of focusing on league fixtures. Most recently, Wigan offer a cautionary tale in how cup success can come at the expense of survival.
Alternatively, Sherwood’s players could be anticipating the semi-final by ensuring they’re in the manager’s chosen XI when it comes to the big day. Also, the FA Cup ran has been a rare confidence booster and the players can draw on that for the league run-in. It would be daft to worry too much about the league and a trip to Wembley is long overdue for Villa fans. It will be an even better day, though, if we pick up a few more points to edge us away from the drop zone beforehand.
Villa seem to be plagued by injuries at the moment but the loaning out of Kinsella, who has recently been on the bench, to Luton Town seems to suggest those problems are easing off. The partnership between Okore and Clark has made Vlaar’s absence less noticeable but he still remains one of the best defenders at the club. Even if he is heading for pastures new in the summer, he would be a useful player to have available ahead of the huge games approaching.
Sherwood has recently mentioned Joe Cole and the impact he has on the players. Though his season has been marred by injuries he did at least offer some encouragement in his cameos so far, scoring away at Burnley.
If the likes of Senderos, Vlaar, Cole, Richardson, Cissokho and even Kozak are set to be in the reckoning it will be a much needed boost for our survival hopes, if indeed Sherwood decides to mix up his favoured Villa squad.
Villa are slightly unlucky in the difficulties posed by the remaining few fixtures, including Man United, Spurs, Man City and Southampton. In the past Villa have picked up points from the tougher matches, perhaps because the expectation isn’t there, but the relegation six-pointers (home ties against QPR and Burnley come to mind) will prove a tough test for Sherwood’s men.
Whether or not you classed Swansea as a ‘must-win’ game, the new manager has picked up some impressive results in the fixtures generally pinpointed as key points opportunities.
Where Villa have had a bit of luck from the fixtures computer, though, is the last four matches – three of which are at home. If Villa Park is backed by the crowd levels we’ve seen recently May’s fixtures against Everton, West Ham and Burnley should indeed be seen as ‘winnable’ and will undoubtedly be hugely important in the context of Villa’s Premier League survival.
As mentioned earlier in this article, Sherwood’s recent claims that the team isn’t suited to a relegation battle are intriguing. If anything, it’s pretty complimentary of the manager to infer that, with the players we have, we should be much higher in the table. Still, a relegation battle is what we’re in, and Sherwood has adapted the team pretty well.
Sherwood’s attempts to forge a team of grafters who never give up have been relatively successful and was demonstrated by Lowton’s last minute surge into the penalty area against West Brom.
Creating a siege mentality for the team could continue to work well but against the teams near the top of the table Sherwood’s gung-ho approach could be tested. Whether or not he can set up a team to defensively grind out a result remains to be seen as he encounters the toughest fixtures yet.
If Villa manage to pick up a few more victories and get to the final we’ll hopefully be catching the eye of wealthy consortiums. There are talks of US interest in Crystal Palace, so surely Villa must be an attractive potential purchase?
Not only will the price be slashed if we do get relegated but even the wealthiest of owners will have a difficult job in getting Villa back to the big time from the Championship. It’s common to hear fans state that a season in the second tier might do Villa some good and allow them to ‘rebuild’ – but instant promotion for ex-Premier League sides is the exception rather than the rule.
It’s becoming traditional now to read about a potentially interested group of billionaires each week, but we need to forget about that for now. If we stay up and do ourselves proud in the FA Cup, hopefully the future will be a little brighter.
Follow Lewis on Twitter here
Follow MOMS on Twitter here