Aston Villa may appear to be going down without any sign of a fight, with the latest defeat at Manchester City symbolic of the lethargic performances that players who do not deserve to wear the shirt continue to produce on a weekly basis.
Losing at the Etihad Stadium against one of the teams challenging for the Premier League title may have come as no surprise to anyone, but all the hard work (and an element of luck) that went into keeping it 0-0 at half time was merely thrown away by an insipid second half showing that turned the game into a cat toying with a feeble mouse that had no intention of going toe-to-toe. We should consider ourselves fortunate that Manchester City decided to be lenient and take their foot off the gas as it could have been double figures, such was the manner in which our heads went down after the first goal went in.
The latest defeat has pushed Villa further towards a trapdoor that is becoming increasingly inevitable, but while playing the blame game may be the only way for fans to get the frustration and anger off their chest, there has to be hope that there is a potential chink of light at the end of a long and dark tunnel.
Relegation will hopefully bring a strong reality check for the Villa board to realise the considerable shortcomings that have seen us go from a team challenging for a top six finish to four consecutive battles against the drop. Bookies.com have already wrote off our chances of surviving this time around, as have many fans and pundits who have witnessed Villa’s demise and impending slide into the Championship, but instead of being in the doldrums, it is best to look at ways in which the club could make changes on and off the pitch that create a brighter future (improving things for supporters would be a start).
Can it get any worse?
Dropping into the Championship may be our worst nightmare come true, but there are always examples of other clubs that have fallen much heavier than Aston Villa. It remains to be seen how we will be respond to relegation, but looking at how far the likes of Portsmouth and Bradford have fallen should be used as motivation to prevent the same predicament from happening to us.
Garde, if he sticks around, may find it even more difficult than he did in January to bring players of the quality he desires to the club, although the likely departure of a number of players on high wages should provide enough finances to build a team that is capable of bouncing back at the first attempt.
More importantly, building a team that restore an element of pride and commitment back into the club may help to get the fans, who have become sick and tired at what they have witnessed on and off the pitch over the last few years, back on board in order to get more bums on seats at Villa Park.
Keeping players who are willing to fight for the cause and adding more in place of the likes of Gabby and N’Zogbia who play like they do not care would encourage us to check Bookies.com for the best place to back Aston Villa next season, and while it may not seem like it right now, it is those sort of changes that allow us to re-energise and come back stronger as a result.
Remi Garde might deserve criticism for his tactics and inability to transform the club’s fortunes around since he arrived in November, but he should not be held solely accountable for the predicament that he walked into. Many of the players have to be held accountable for the lack of fight, effort and desire to perform when pulling on the shirt which may suggest that they want Garde sacked, but they themselves must look in the mirror as professional footballers and ask themselves if they have done all they could for the cause.
Sadly, the reality is that only Jordan Ayew, Jordan Amavi and perhaps Idrissa Gueye can hold their heads up high; there will be no shortage of players leaving the club if Aston Villa do succumb to the dreaded drop after three previous years of surviving by the skin of our teeth. The axe must be wielded to get rid of players who clearly do not have the stomach to get Aston Villa out of their current predicament.
Years of poor recruitment have finally caught up with Aston Villa, but the problems at the club run so much deeper than merely being a million miles behind the rest of the league.
A number of people must be held accountable for the inability to produce a team that possesses the required Premier League quality at both ends of the pitch; it seems a lifetime ago when Villa were able to compete against the very best when now they are able to run riot without breaking a sweat.
Garde must also be held accountable for his unwillingness to have a go in fear of being turned over, which is happening anyway. He may be let down by the level of mismanagement that has left us with a squad packed with players who just aren’t good enough, but his tactics are deserving of considerable blame placed at his door.
However, the big problem is at boardroom level with the sale of the club still in limbo. New chairman Steven Hollis is believed to be wielding the axe at boardroom level to remove those that he feels have failed in their respective roles, but there appears no sign of Lerner letting up on his asking price despite the protests for him to do what is best for the club.
A club with Aston Villa’s pedigree and history has been run through the mud thanks to substantial mismanagement at every level, but more importantly deserves an owner that cares about the club’s wellbeing and status. Relegation might persuade Lerner to accept lower bids for the club and provide fans with the best news they have received for a long time; a good spring clean at boardroom and management level would be in the best interests of everyone concerned, as it can’t get much worse at the moment.
New board director Mervyn King said on Radio Five today that the club are “reviewing every aspect of the club and in due course, not after too long I hope, we will have some announcements to make.”
The only announcement Villa supporters want is one for a new owner of the club. On the playing side of matters, whether Garde remains the man to take care if it, King reckons is Garde’s decision to make, but if he did want to stay, surely he would insist on employing his own backroom staff and to build a fresh team on funds generated through a squad cull that is long overdue.
Relegation will trigger massive change at the club and it is vitally important that the club finally get things right.
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