By Adam Keeble
Not the dream start Villa fans or Tim Sherwood would have wanted, but what have fans learned as Aston Villa fans in the first full week of the Sherwood era?
I’M LOVIN’ IT
The appointment of Kevin McDonald was universally seen as a good move by Sherwood (unlike the hiring of Sherwood in the first place which divided many fans). For all his passion and his saying the right things, he knows he needs to get up to speed with the club and its players – and who better than McDonald who’s a former caretaker manager and has been at Villa Park from 2003-2012.
Interesting to see with the game in the balance, Sherwood called McDonald out of the dug out and clearly asked him what he thought of the situation. McDonald might not be a name to entice the big names to join the club, but he knows the set-up at the club as well as anyone. And while the idea of an Ian Taylor, Shaun Teale or even a Martin Laursen coming in as an assistant might give the fans a boost, another novice alongside Sherwood would be the blind leading the blind.
It’s a smart, logical move and while you might not hear a lot from McDonald, he will have the manager’s ear and Sherwood will have his.
NO OUT OF POSITION PLAYERS… EXCEPT…
One of the quotes from Sherwood during the week would have caught the fan’s eye in particular. “They’ll all play in their correct positions – nobody playing out of position – and they’ll know their jobs” he said, meaning an end to the “go again” tactics used by Lambert of regularly playing strikers as wingers.
Further optimism would have come from the line-up, which could very easily of been a 4-4-2 but looked more like a 4-4-1-1 with Agbonlahor behind Benteke. But then Weimann came on for Gil, and Weimann stuck out on the touchline opposite Scott Sinclair in more like a 4-3-3… and Villa were never really in it after that.
And then there’s Richardson. While he did okay until his injury with some very incisive passing with Sinclair, he’s not a left-back and in most fans opinions (if Twitter is a fair indicator) wouldn’t be first choice in any position on the park. Maybe not even second choice in most. Richardson was signed because he’s been around the block, he wanted to play and was cheap as chips. Not because he was better than anyone else already in the squad.
Maybe it’s nit-picking but don’t say things like “nobody playing out of position” – and I’m well aware that Richardson has played left-back and Weimann has played enough as a wide-forward, maybe it’s not out of position for him anymore – but Weimann looks best in front of goal and Richardson looks best on the bench and anywhere else is not their best position.
POST GAME COMMENTS
Surely Paul Lambert was aware of how ridiculous his post-match comments sounded. The unconvincing “I thought we were excellent” after a dismal performance with two shots, one on target, and defensive lapses every which way. His favorite “we go again” was supposed to be reassuring – that the team would keep plugging away doing the same old thing, then the new same old thing, both with little creativity and the latter inducing yawns and even worse results.
So for Sherwood to stand up after the game and say we were rubbish (in so many words) was a breath of fresh air. Even his walk down the tunnel, alone, and pissed off, was the walk of a fan – he lost a choker on his big debut and he wasn’t happy about it. He wasn’t going to tell the press how “unlucky” we were to concede a stupid penalty that late in the game, which cost us a point. He wasn’t going to try and kid the fans that the performance was something it wasn’t. His observations were largely that of the fans: we were good in the first half, lost our way, and probably deserved a draw.
That empathy will endear him to fans who have watched boring, sideways passing or frantic defending followed by attempts at smash and grabs for two-and-a-half years – and been told how excellent it was.
THE LONG GAME
Whether Tim Sherwood keeps Villa up is still to be seen. The team’s new attacking style will need some tweaks: one shot, one goal in the first half is an improvement on two shots, no goals in entire games in some ways, but otherwise this wasn’t a performance to get too excited about.
Nor was it one that will get #SherwoodOut trending. Without putting his stamp on the team with new signings he has brought in, he’s left with the squad he has inherited. He has to get Benteke scoring. Just as importantly, he has to find his best eleven.
This was his first time dipping his toe in the water at Villa Park – when he’s ready to take the plunge, he can’t hide from the fact it has become his team. There are 12 more league games to go and we are 19th thanks to the board leaving it as long as they did to recognise improvements were not going to happen under Lambert’s regime.
Villa’s next opponents, Newcastle, will face Villa after taking a 0-5 hiding. Whether Sherwood can tap into that and land a huge win to get things rolling… well, that would be a start. UTV
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