Revamp

I don’t mind admitting that last season, after Southampton made wholesale changes in the summer, I half expected them to go down. The Saints had sold their best players (mainly to Liverpool) and in Ronald Koeman, had a new man in charge with no Premier League experience. It was going to take a minor miracle to gel it all together for Southampton to have a decent season.

Koeman and his team came up trumps though and even qualified for Europe.

Now it’s Aston Villa’s turn to try a similar revamp trick, after a squad overhaul that included 13 new players coming in. But Tim Sherwood’s attempt hasn’t been going so well.

Newly-promoted Watford brought in 15 new players and find themselves five points above Villa after seven games.

After seven games, Villa are now slumped in the bottom three with a paltry four points. Southampton last season in comparison, were in the top three with 16 points including five wins on the trot; it was this start that allowed their newly formed team to build momentum to carry them through the season.

Last season a cocky Tim Sherwood claimed that the club wouldn’t face another relegation battle on his watch, even if he started the season with the same team.

“I’m allowed to sign whoever I want in the summer, as long as i can justify it, but I believe even if we didn’t make a signing we wouldn’t be in this position again,” the Villa manager boasted.

Of the players he would bring in, Sherwood claimed he would be buying players with a winning mentality.

 

Villa fans have long learned in recent seasons from the Villa PR machine, their former club captain and manager that talk is cheap. Villa are now in real trouble with no win in their last six league games after their opening day triumph at Bournemouth. Villa are also winless in the league at Villa Park, continuing the woeful home form of recent seasons.

Yes, it’s early days, but newly-promoted Watford brought in 15 new players and find themselves five points above Villa after seven games. We’re fast coming up to a quarter of the season gone and Villa actually had a relatively easy fixture list to start with and it’s about to get harder with the likes of Chelsea, Spurs, and Manchester City coming up.

Teething Problems

The main problem with the Villa team was it simply wasn’t ‘prepared’ for the new season, after buying in many players later on in the preseason period. Sherwood never really got to shape his new acquisitions together in a series of pre season games. Instead they are very much learning their Villa trade on the job.

Christian Benteke leaving the club was inevitable, yet Randy Lerner didn’t seem to want to present Sherwood with much in the way of funds upfront to allow him to get his players in earlier to get them ready for the season ahead.

Currently, it’s very much as if Villa are still in preseason with a handful of players still not properly fit. Also, Jordan Ayew and Jordan Veretout are clearly not ready, and Adama Traore would have also benefited greatly from more preseason game time, if he was bought earlier.

Also, there’s gaps in the team, with Veretout not ready (he should be at £7m+) and Gana’s recent injury, we’ve seen that Carlos Sanchez and Ashley Westwood are not a midfield pairing with much gravitas against Premier League opposition. Maybe the team can get away with one of them playing, but not both.

Old Guard Issues

You have to put sentiment aside as a fan, when judging some of Villa’s more longer-serving players. Are Gabby Agbonlahor and Brad Guzan cutting the mustard anymore?

Sherwood so far has treated Agbonlahor as Villa’s top striker, which certainly presents a problem. Gabby hasn’t scored since March and the last time he scored double figures for the club in league goals was the 2009/10 season. Has he really done enough to be picked so regularly?

 

The goalkeeping situation perhaps shows a lack of ambition at the club. While they were in the market, Villa should have made even more of an effort to obtain a new number one in the summer.

Instead, they sold the man Sherwood had reinstated as Villa number one last season and gave the No.1 job back to the man that he dropped. Who did they get in to provide Guzan with the competition to help him lift his game? Well, essentially a third choice no-name keeper who could never be a number one in the Premier League.

Surely the situation needs addressing in January?

Considering Villa’s net spend was the third lowest in the division, they were £20m behind the likes of Watford and West Ham, and £15m behind West Brom. There was certainly room to purchase a couple of more decent players to improve the first team and that includes a goalkeeper and a better quality right-back.

Losing a Safety Blanket

An experienced striker would have helped Sherwood’s options, and he did at least try to remedy that situation in courting Emmanuel Adebayor. While Rudy Gestede has scored goals, he’s certainly hasn’t demonstrated himself as an all-round striker yet, ala Christian Benteke.

The Belgian striker was essentially Villa’s ‘get-out-of-relegation’ card, for the past few seasons. The player that gave supporters belief that relegation would never be a reality for the club. There’s no such safety blanket now.

Has the money gained from the sale of the Belgian been spent wisely? It is of course too early to judge properly (whatever your knee-jerk reaction is). Does Gestede look like a double-figure league goal scoring striker in the Premier League? Despite his decent start boosted by his brace of consolation goals against Liverpool, Villa haven’t offered as much threat down the flanks as perhaps they would have liked.

“We will improve next season” – Tim Sherwood, May 2015.

The Key to Villa

The key for the Villa team in my opinion is what quality can Gana, Veretout, Ayew and Adama Traore ultimately bring to the team.

Both Gana and Veretout in theory at least should be a midfield upgrade on last season. Ayew will need to score double-figures to prove his worth and really help the team. Traore gives Villa an extra dimension, which Grealish and Gil also offer the team, but he’s still young and plays with a single-minded selfishness. But if these four step-up that’ll be half the battle won.

The Old Problem

There’s also concerns about the defence. My pet concern is Micah Richards as a centre-back. If you watch all the goals Villa have conceded from the Wolves pre season friendly onwards, half of them are due to Richards losing the man he’s marking behind him as he is drawn to the ball.

While he has athleticism and determination, he does switch off in his reading of the play. It was a criticism levelled at him at Manchester City and a reason he fell from favour there.

If Jores Okore comes back stronger, surely a backline of Richards, Okore, Clark/Lescott, Amavi is the strongest one that Villa can field? But will Richard’s ego allow for a switch to right-back? While he still has the legs, he should give it a go. It would certainly give the Villa rearguard a solid look to it.

Stiffer Competition

Further alarm bells are ringing for Villa in the way the three promoted teams have acquitted themselves this season. They are organised, spirited and most importantly are well drilled as a teams. Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich all have two wins to their names are comfortably above Villa already and playing well.

This time last year both Burnley and QPR were already in the bottom three and that’s where they finished. I would be surprised if two of this year’s three new boys drop.

Villa have been lucky in recent seasons that there have been three worse teams than them to fill the bottom places, but this season, bar Sunderland (Newcastle have spent enough to potentially improve), it’s not clear to see where they will come from.

 

Villa cannot rely on other teams to be worse than them this season and they shouldn’t. It’s a myth that in terms of team strength the Premier League is the greatest league in the world. Look at the fortunes of English teams in the Champions League and the fact that a disjointed and unimpressive Manchester United are currently top of the league. As teams like Swansea and West Ham have shown in recent times, the top ‘Sky Four’ teams are very beatable.

If Villa can get their act together quickly and string some results together, they can rise swiftly.

Tim Sherwood was a good short-term appointment for Villa in terms of shaking the club from its Paul Lambert coma, but big question marks existed regarding his viability for the club in the long-term. Those who appointed him clearly didn’t see that, but large sections of Villa supporters certainly did. He was a risk.

Tim Sherwood has most fans backing though and it’s time for the Villa boss to give serious thought to the task ahead instead of making bravado-fuelled empty promises. He doesn’t need anybody to tell him that it’s a result’s business and they have been lacking this season.

UTV

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19 COMMENTS

  1. i dont know about any of you buti think villa are not a bad side at all we just have the wrong tactics and players. AND WHY ON EARTH DID SHEREWOOD SELL BENTEKE AND WEIMMAN THATS WHAT HAS KILLED US.

    • If Benteke was so good why did we not win at Wembley ? No point in keeping a player who was half out the door before the season ended . But having said that he aint doing much good @ Poo

  2. Tosspot owner, inept manager, second rate players and apathetic fans are the reason we are so crap. Looking at the fixtures coming up we will do well to have 10-11 points at Christmas so relegation is a certainty. We have been dire for years and nothing has been done to improve the situation so we will deserve everything we get.
    LERNER OUT AND QUICK !

    • It so sad that some so called fans only want the club to fail but why is that ? Could it be that their own lives are so pathetic that all they can see is doom & gloom or could there be an entirely different reason ?
      As for nothing been done to improve the clubs poor results is that true or just the view of a doom & gloom merchant who can’t see beyond the results, to the failed attempts to improve the club

  3. Good article David raising many relevant points, I have said it for 2/3 seasons now that Guzan is simply not up to it. At times a brilliant shot stopper but throw a deep cross into our box and PANIC. No command of his area. That panic rubs off on the rest of the defence and it shows. As for Gabby, yes he is not half the player he once was, but he is Villa through and through and brings a lot to the club that perhaps we don’t all see. We don’t yet have a solid holding midfielder, sadly the snake could play this part well when asked too. Finally, has anyone else noticed how long it takes to get our injured back to fitness. Perhaps our medical team needs to be reviewed. There is a top sport medic looking for work down south.

    • Aye we must need a new medic, with all the advances in that science surely we should be getting the cyborgs playing a lot quicker, with a lot less time in the physio room

  4. once again the blaming of the old guards, guzan and hutton, when they haven’t done much wrong except for guzan’s poor distribution, but i always look at shot stopping first for a keeper. Take away notts county, sunderland and birmingham, and sinclair and ayew has not done much better than gabby.

    What we should be worried about is people still blaming lerner for not spending the cash when tim is already pleased with lerner’s outlay

    Tim’s going back on his we’ll always try to play on the front foot, his delusional confidence in our passing football (we can pass our way out even way deep in our own half!!), his blaming of players (grealish’s work rate, need to be tighter) when he said everything is down to him.

    The most worrying is the tactics is becoming the same as under lambert, not willing to have players stay wide and playing narrow. This grealish always cutting inside from wide and sinclair coming inside to support gestede means we’re woefully exposed out wide and doesn’t help when closing down opponents out wide, and makes it easy for opponents to defend against us. Can tim finally see the wonders playing wide can do to our defence and attack with two goals starting out wide against pool?? I won’t count on it.

    Right now the last thing i want to see is us giving the ball away in dangerous areas because we’re playing to pass out way out of pressure. Would rather see alex mcleish’s aimless long balls than this anyday, at least we could still defend then.

      • what? did you not see gana give away the ball for pool’s third goal? veretout gave away one which sturridge should have made it four. amavi already given away two goals by trying to dribble away out of trouble. How much more goals are we going to give away by trying to pass our way out of pressure before we realise we need to take a leaf out of rugby and kick into touch whenever we’re deep in our own territory?

        • Perhaps we should also change to playing with the oval ball surely then we would not be able to dribble with the ball ? Or maybe it’s just that our players need time to learn how to deal with the professional fouls that more experienced players use

          • to be honest i’d rather see this team play rugby than football now….

            how does professional fouls figure into this? you mean we should give away professional fouls everytime we give away the ball in dangerous areas? even if the giveaway leads to a one-on-one when no one can catch up to even try to professionally foul? And then yes, we’ll stop giving silly goals away and start to get silly cards

            • evernal don’t professional fouls occur in RL ? You seem confused as to what one is and that Villa players may not suffer from them . Perhaps you need to study the Harlem Globetrotters guide on how to tear up the rule book and play without breaking the rules of the game and then think how that might be applied to footie

              • there’s nothing clever about the way opponents are inducing our players to give away the ball, whatever they do does not even come close to breaking the rules, let alone the need to tear up the rule book.

                Our players just can’t deal with the opponents’ intense pressing and give the ball away easily, that’s it. Plain and simple, you don’t need to be clever in pressing our players, just need to show some raw enthusiasm and our players will be cowered into passing backwards or give the ball away cheaply.

                Face it, we don’t have the players that can twist and turn their way out of pressure and keep composure on the ball, even grealish can’t do that against pool. So the next alternative is just to boot it long

                • Funny thing is that we did not start scoring untill we stopped kicking it long . And yes I was pleased when Grealish was subbed as twisting and turning is of little value when faced with the hard men who know how to trick refs with tactics that bend rather than break the rules . As for Raw enthusiasm that’s fine as long as our players can stay within the rules of the game yet have the strength to stand up to the bullies , the biggest problem against Poo was that our players anticipation of both the ball and staying out of trouble was lacking but that can only improve with more playing time .

  5. Sorry but the future just shouldn’t be looking exactly like the past three or even four seasons. Something is rotten in the state of Primark.

  6. i felt richards was always going to take a while to come up to speed and so it is proving so

    the defence will get better with time,,, especially if we get a quality right back

    it is early days and we have been hampered by injuries and a general lack of quality in key areas

    i am not pointing fingers but gabby is finished as a player, westwood just is not good enough yet

    sanchez is not good enough yet and players like guzan hutton bacuna are concerning me

    but if we had a couple of players banging the goals in then you can live with a few failings

    it good to see geteste getting some goals,, this is important as his confidence will be sky high and

    hopefully he can keep it going

    i still think the lack of goals from midfield is scary,, plus we are not getting goals from defenders at corners

    which we need to do if we are to push on

    but despite the doom there are some real great propects on the books ,, its just going to take time

    and we must stick with the team as they need our support,,,,

  7. Last season the panic was lack of goals yet this season Sinclair & Gestede are scoring so the clamour is on for a new keeper yet Brad has made sopme excellent saves problem is that he is not superman which currently he needs to be given the number of oppotunities the rest of the team allow the opposition to have . . But who is to blame? the owner, the manager , the team or the fans or could it just be that Villa as one of the teams who have been longest in the Prem are the team everyone wants to beat ? It’s easy to blame somebody but we have an inexperienced team & manager and other clubs know that so they employ tactics that our players have not learnt to deal with when they can not beat us . But 7 games into the season is not the time to start panicking as there is still time for our squad to learn and start picking up those valuable points . And don’t forget we’ve possibly got at least one cup run to look forward to

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