If there was any question marks over Tim Sherwood’s management of Aston Villa so far, the fate of Carles Gil has been the main one without an answer.
In a roundabout way, Sherwood has finally offered an explanation for his omission of Carles Gil last season. The good news is, fan favourite Gil seems to be very much part of the Sherwood revolution moving forwards.
Back from the Wilderness
After seemingly being labelled one of the “‘icing on the cake players” that weren’t going to help the club scrap its way out of the bottom three, Sherwood was quoted as saying: “It’s up to Carles to prove on the training field he warrants a place. It’s my choice who plays and doesn’t… Who is best equipped to get out of a relegation battle?”
Of course, whether Gil would have helped or hindered the relegation battle or not, Sherwood steered Villa to safety without the Spaniard playing a part.
But now things have changed.
“(Gil) is going to play a lot more football this year because we’re not in that situation where it’s a relegation battle,” said Sherwood, quoted in the Birmingham Mail. “He wasn’t part of that intense approach we needed to win games… It’s different now, and hopefully we can get him on the ball in important areas of the field…”
Tellingly, going forward Sherwood adds: “I didn’t know him (last season) and we were playing a different way.”
If Gil was dropped for a more productive, direct approach, that’s a good sign Sherwood plans to play a system where Gil’s quick feet, skill and dribbling will suit the style Sherwood has in mind with the luxury of a blank league table.
Earlier this month, Sherwood said: “It would help by bringing in new players who are used to winning.”
Not too many of the current squad can say they have won much recently – but Carles Gil can. He was very used to winning games as he won promotion with Elche to the top flight for the first time in nearly 25 years while on loan from Valencia. He made 65 league appearances, five goals and nine assists over two seasons.
So far Gil has impressed in pre season and teammate Gabby Agbonlahor has joined his fan club too saying: “I hope he keeps improving and hopefully he gets a chance because, for me, he’s a quality player.”
It should be noted that in his four appearances Gil has one goal (the goal of the season) and an assist (for Okore’s goal against Chelsea).
If we’re going to assume Gil will play on the right wing or in the number 10 role behind a big strong centre-forward (hopefully a Belgian wearing the number 20 shirt), we can also safely assume the Charles N’Zogbia is one of the “five, six, seven maybe” players who aren’t going to fit in next season.
N’Zogbia was the primary player keeping Gil out of the team in the run-in. He was mainly chosen by Sherwood because he proved himself in a relegation battle at Wigan, when he almost single-handedly kept them up. This time round though, he offered very little. Sherwood’s gamble didn’t really pay off.
Other players in the mix with Gil to provide Villa with extra dimension going forward include Jack Grealish, who’s future is brighter with every appearance and he could certainly play that more central role. And Scott Sinclair, who lost his place despite his admirable goal-scoring record while on loan last season, will also be back challenging for a first XI spot with Sherwood hinting at using conventional wingers more.
New season, New player?
A return to the matchday squad would represent yet another twist in the rollercoaster that Gil’s short Villa career has been. Things looked so bright after his arrival from Valencia in January. He was Villa’s liveliest player and scored a fantastic first goal against Bournemouth in his FA Cup debut.
Managerial changes looked to have prematurely ended Gil’s Villa Park stay as he struggled to even make the bench for the majority of Sherwood’s squads.
If he can actively contribute ,either from the starting 11 or the bench Gil, may well be like a new signing all over again. His adaptability improves selection options. His technical ability and competition for the number 10 role may help to inspire more from Grealish.
Gil is undoubtedly talented and the fact that he is getting his head down and making an impression in preseason says a lot about his character and ambition. Let’s hope that he gets a fair run out this season and that he becomes the player that we all desperately hoped he would when he arrived during the dark days of January.
(Additional reporting Finn Mongey)
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