On Friday evening both the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail ran stories that both Ashley Westwood and Tom Cleverley had been dropped by Tim Sherwood for his first fixture as Aston Villa boss. It seemed odd that the manager would want that to be public knowledge.
Villa midfielders being dropped is hardly newsworthy given their responsibility for Villa’s demise in recent seasons, in fact you could drop any of them (including Delph) and MOMS wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But the thing is no manager would want to give the opposition any tactical advantage with insight into the team he was planning on playing.
In this case, if Stoke boss Mark Hughes knew Westwood and Cleverley would be out, it was a clear indication that Sherwood would be going for a more attacking formation with only Delph and Sanchez likely to start in the middle of the park with other players likely to be selected to give Villa width (Gil, Sinclair etc).
How did the press know?
Well, sometimes you can look at the training pictures and see who’s wearing those fluorescent bibs in any 11 vs 11 set ups. It can sometimes provide a clue, if the club staff member handling the sign-off on the pics has been naive in the shots they’ve released. But for a journalist this would be no more than a hunch to build a story around.
Another possibility is that the manager actually leaked the information to get a reaction from a player, i.e. to put a rocket up the player’s backside. But why would you do it in your first week in charge? It’s not exactly a great way to make friends and influence players, before you’ve really got to know what makes them tick. it could potentially ruin a player’s will to play for you, which isn’t ideal for the relegation battle ahead. Also, in the case of Cleverley, why would you do it? Sherwood had witnessed perhaps the midfielder’s best performance in a Villa shirt in the Leicester FA Cup game.
It’s more likely that a player leaked the information. A clue to information in the press being legit is when two newspapers release the story with minutes of each other as the Telegraph and Mail did. In normally means there’s a mutual agreement.
Could it be Westwood? Unlikely. Maybe it was Cleverley, who is perhaps increasingly frustrated at his host club? Maybe Sherwood’s brash character has already rubbed some players up the wrong way?
Whatever the reason for the leak, it’s not a great sign that it happened for the first match of the new Villa manager’s reign.
If you don’t want to get relegated, you really need to be operating as a Premier League club from top to bottom. If it’s the new manager’s first match in charge, better not mess up the teamsheet to embarrass him…oh, hang on a minute…
Talk about double-whammy. Not only was the Villa captain of the early 1990’s Kevin Richardson listed instead of Villa’s current utility player Kieran Richardson, but also there was some particularly fishy spelling of Carles Gil’s name.
In short, it’s not good enough.
Leaks and embarrassing presentation; it’s about time the club got their house in order and started acting like a professional Premier League club on and off the pitch, because if they don’t soon, in 12 games time, such a status will be a mere memory.
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