Tim Sherwood’s cull at Villa is gathering pace, with Darren Bent, Enda Stevens, Matt Lowton and Yacouba Sylla soon to be joined by Nicklas Helenius in being moved on within four weeks of the Wembley Disaster. Joining them in exiting through what seems sure to be a revolving door this summer is Andreas Weimann, once described as the best natural finisher at the club, who last week completed a £2.75m deal to join Bent at Championship play-off bottlers Derby County.
His Villa career having gone off the boil as it did, Weimann’s exit won’t be mourned by fans as it would have been two years ago. Once something of a fan favourite, the Austrian’s once-ripe Villa career is another prominent example at the club in recent years of something which could have been, but never was.
Given his debut as a 19-year-old by Kevin MacDonald on the opening day of 2010-11, Weimann’s real breakthrough didn’t come until 19 months later when he scored the first of his 24 goals in a Villa shirt, bundling in inelegantly from a rebound in the 92nd minute to secure a 1-0 victory over Fulham. A month later he hit a superb strike in a draw against Stoke and Villa looked to have a real Premier League prospect on their hands.
It was during the following season that he really established himself as a key member of the Villa side, forming a profitable partnership through the middle with the newly-signed Christian Benteke. The understanding the two of them developed was at times superb, exemplified perfectly by the Austrian’s brace in the 2-3 home defeat to Manchester United and the pair’s display in the superb 3-1 win at Anfield, in which they linked up for THAT goal.
During the 2012-13 season the Austrian earned a reputation as a fine finisher able to ghost into positions so well that you didn’t notice his run until he was found in the box. Both of these talents were seen all too infrequently during the latter period of his time at the club, but he finished that first full campaign with 12 goals in 38 games in all competitions, a return not to be sniffed at for a then-21-year-old.
Weimann, like many at Villa in recent years, was undoubtedly a form player – seven of those 12 goals that season came in a nine-game spell from early December to mid-January – but he is an undeniable, if raw, talent who still has plenty to give. Although it is admittedly still difficult to know what a ‘Tim Sherwood kind of player’ is at this stage given the fact Tim has only signed one player as Villa manager, the Weimann of 2012 would probably have fit the bill.
The Lambert Effect?
In his last two seasons at Villa, however, in an increasingly ailing Paul Lambert side, his displays for the club became characterised by a failure to recapture his goal threat and an often desperate lack of final quality.
In fairness, you’d have had to have a heart of stone not to feel for him at times, seeing him increasingly utilised out of position. Lambert’s increasing penchant for shoving him out on the wing, as with a lot of the Scot’s tactical decisions, was baffling: move a player whose strongest part of their game was their finishing out wide and out of sight of goal and you’re immediately setting them up for a fall.
As his sights of goal became less frequent his finishing became more wayward; he netted just six times in 39 games in 2013-14, and just four times in 35 games last season. Another contributing factor to this may also have been that, as a result of his positional switch, he was suddenly being asked to do far more running for the team than he had been when being played more centrally.
The phrase ‘ran himself into the ground’ was often particularly apt for Weimann; he’d spend so much of games tearing around like an enthusiastic kid on the playground that he burned himself out by the latter stages of a match – another example of his likeable but often-lamentable nature as a footballer.
Viel Glück, Andi
Even so, when he did pop up with rare goals over the last two years, they were often crucial ones. His first league goal of 2013-14 was the winner in the 3-2 home victory against Manchester City; he ignited Villa’s comeback from two down after nine minutes in the remarkable 4-3 win over West Brom; it was his brace against Hull City which all but secured Villa’s survival; and last season he earned Villa an invaluable six points from their first three games with two matchwinners.
However, it had become no real surprise that he was seen as surplus to requirements by Sherwood – he had featured just seven times in the final three months of the season, and had not been on the pitch at all since the win at White Hart Lane on 11 April. Tim’s judgement, at this stage at least, must be given full support (although the disappearance of a certain Spanish midfielder remains a puzzling sidenote), and Weimann himself has admitted that it was time for a change in his career.
If he is given regular game time under Paul Clement, as he surely will be, then his enthusiasm and commitment will see him win over the Pride Park support, and the positive attributes of his attacking game mean that I, for one, would be surprised not to see him rack up 10-15 goals against a lower class of defence.
Always likeable as a professional and an adopted Villa son – albeit if too often not for his performances or on-field return – MOMS (along with surely all Villa fans) wishes him all the best. Good luck, Andi, and thanks.
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