“But believe me, my dear boy, there is nothing stronger than those two: patience and time, they will do it all.” ~ Tolstoy (War & Peace)
Aston Villa fans have become accustomed to failure, boredom and dissatisfaction in recent seasons but these negative emotions built up to a crescendo of rage on Saturday after the team’s latest defeat to Sunderland.
Rather than leave their seats early some fans stayed behind to boo and heckle the team as they boarded the bus after the match. It was a sad sight but a fairly predictable reaction to Aston Villa’s performance and the realisation that the club will likely play in the Championship next season.
Inevitably there have been Twitter polls following the defeat which either asked: “Should Remi Garde be sacked?” or “Is Remi Garde the manager to get us promoted from the Championship next season?”
From my point of view I think he is the right manager for the club next season, whatever the division.
I have seen many fans and pundits advocate the likes of Pearson or other ‘up and at ‘em’ managers who they feel would be more suited to the Championship – but would they? Recent history has shown that teams who play properly with the ball have just as much, if not more, chance of being promoted than physical or counter-attacking teams.
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, Brendan Rogers Swansea, Derby under McClaren and now Paul Clement, and Brighton under Oscar Garcia, have all been teams who were comfortable in possession. Bournemouth are now looking reasonably safe in the Premier League having largely maintained the style of play they had become accustomed to in the Championship.
English Old Skool
The more defensive style associated with the likes of Tony Pulis and Big Sam has not been so effective in achieving promotion from the Championship in recent seasons and ‘knowing the league’ is certainly not a prerequisite for success.
Pulis, Allardyce and Lambert may have had a certain amount of success in Premier League relegation battles by having less possession than their opponents and nicking goals on the counter attack or through set pieces, but this is not what Aston Villa need next season. Paul Lambert’s Blackburn are currently floundering in 17th place in the Championship for example.
Garde So Far
Whilst having sympathy for him, Garde can rightly be criticised for his continued selection of underperformers such as Hutton, Richards and Guzan. These senior professionals have struggled to adapt to Garde’s system despite the attempts of pundits to lay the blame at the door of the Ligue 1 players.
There has, however, also been some signs of improvement in the team’s play since Garde arrived. Against West Ham for example the team kept the ball well and created more chances than in any other match this season. Ayew and Veretout have improved under Garde and Amavi had an impressive game for him against Manchester City before Amavi’s season was cruelly ended during a France u23 match.
Having an extra man or two in midfield to hold the ball, build up play gradually, or win the ball back immediately after being dispossessed is important to Garde’s style of play. This is why Amavi with his anticipation and dribbling ability was so important to him and Garde laments the loss of Amavi when given the opportunity to do so. Alan Hutton is currently the most attacking full back in Garde’s team who joins the midfield in attacks and provides width but Hutton has been so error prone recently that the team has suffered horribly.
Bacuna or Richards could play the attacking right back role with more success but it remains to be seen whether Garde will use the FA Cup game versus Wycombe this weekend to experiment a little before the remaining games. Whether Richards would tolerate being asked to play right-back is another matter entirely.
The Sherwood Effect
There are others who believe the style of play is the reason why Aston Villa will be relegated this season but I don’t think this argument has much merit. Tim Sherwood tried several different styles and formations before he was fired.
He tried possession with his relatively successful “two number 10’s” approach against Leicester and Chelsea and the team looked good in the Leicester game until Sherwood brought on two strikers and unbalanced the midfield. In the Chelsea match the team were again playing very well until a Brad Guzan error (such a regular occurrence in the last year) turned the game. Garde also tried this approach against Sunderland but calamitous individual errors at the back caused the team’s confidence to drop with Guzan, Richards and Hutton again not covering themselves in glory.
Sherwood also tried the low defensive block against Liverpool. This system failed. Sherwood tried the low block and long ball up to Gestede in the first half against Birmingham City. This system failed. Kevin McDonald tried an old fashioned 4-4-2 with crosses whacked into Gestede. This system also failed.
So many different formations and selections this season have proved futile that it is not easy to think of another manager who could come in and make an instant impact.
Sherwood himself perhaps realised the squad’s limitations in his final weeks at the club as he said he did not know his best or most effective team. In addition, Sherwood’s assistant Ray Wilkins was a pundit in Villa’s recent 1-1 draw v Newcastle and was asked where the squad should be strengthened. He replied, “Everywhere”.
If the previous coaching staff does not rate the squad they helped assemble then it is perhaps not surprising that Garde thinks the club need to acquire new additions this month to make the team more effective. The Aston Villa manager was criticised for saying the team needed to become more effective in their finishing after the game but there was nothing controversial in his comments. Aston Villa’s front three had scored five Premier League goals between them prior to the game on Saturday whilst Jermaine Defoe, with his vast experience, has scored over a hundred Premier League goals on his own.
The situation was different when Sherwood replaced Lambert, who was in his third season at the club and had been playing with the same front three for years. Villa’s dressing room had become bored of hearing the same voice and Sherwood quickly realised that Benteke needed to have the ball passed to him swiftly whenever possible. Furthermore, Sherwood realised that the team needed a link player and brought in Grealish.
Sadly this season there is no Benteke. Nor are there relatively reliable senior professionals like Delph, Cleverley and Vlaar (when not injured) either. Sherwood intended Gestede to be a bench option, which suits Gestede fine, but the big striker does not have the quality to be the leading man up front in the Premier League.
Deep End & Black Cats
Garde must also have some sympathy as he was parachuted into a mine-field when he arrived with the team at the bottom of the league following seven straight defeats in a row. He has not had the instant impact some expected but he is not an impact manager like Sherwood or the likes of Di Canio.
Sunderland are another club who have suffered similar problems to Aston Villa. They have had the boom and bust years of Martin O’Neill’s spending, the short term impact managers and the relegation specialists who do not like possession of the ball. Both clubs stay rooted to the bottom of the league. If Garde was replaced with another impact manager then it would just delay the inevitable rebuild somewhere down the line.
Another thing Sunderland have in common with Aston Villa is Roy Keane. The former Manchester United hard-man sported a bushy beard and a scowl when he was Aston Villa’s assistant manager and he is known to have had issues with the dressing room whilst at the club. If a man with Keane’s tough reputation in the game found Aston Villa’s dressing room intolerable, then it shows what a difficult task doe-eyed Remi Garde has on his hands.
Charlatan Player Power
Telegraph journalist John Percy recently mentioned in one of his articles that some senior players had complained about the intensity of Garde’s training sessions. Much was made recently of Chelsea’s alleged player power in the removal of Jose Mourinho as manager but Mourinho’s dressing room contained World Cup, Champions League and treble winners.
In Aston Villa’s case the players suspected of complaining about the intensity of training sessions have had extremely mediocre careers in which they have struggled to score five goals per season (no prizes for guessing who). The fact that these players have been given long and expensive contracts is a demonstration of the mis-management of the club.
Replacing Remi Garde would be another victory for those players who have performed miserably for years and are too comfortable with an easy life-style at Bodymoor Heath. Tim Sherwood expressed his frustration at being unable to remove some of those players in the summer who he said were happy to sit on their contracts despite being told they could leave.
Another source of frustration for Aston Villa’s fans this season has been seeing a former academy player, Jordan Graham, performing brilliantly for Wolves in the Championship. Paul Lambert released Graham without giving him a chance in the first team and Lambert failed to develop anyone from Villa’s Next Gen Series winning U-19 squad of which Jordan Graham, Daniel Crowley and Jack Grealish were part.
Garde has worked for years at Lyon’s academy and helped bring through some of their stars such as Umtiti and Lacazette. Next season he would be able to use his experience to blood some of the talented crop of academy players at the club in the Championship such as Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Andre Green, Jordan Lydon and others. Not to mention the fact that he would have a full pre season to work with the players who signed from Ligue 1 and work on preparing the squad to be much fitter than it started the 2015/16 season.
Calls to fire Remi Garde are in my view short-sighted and fans, however frustrated we are, should not fall into the trap of throwing away a good opportunity to rebuild the club because of this season’s disappointment.
Follow Shelley on Twitter – @shelley_ozzy
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I think that we should stick with Mr garde and see what happens if we get any funds and what and if he’s allowed to buy who he requires and not the Muppet show upstairs PS get Brian little in as chief exec.utv
We have unique opportunity to prepare for championship months earlier than those that are usually fighting relegation through April.
I think the only upside to our current situation is that it gives us a unique chance to start preparing for the championship several weeks ( or even months! ) earlier than most relegated teams – who are still fighting for survival through April. Any business in January should reflect that. This isn’t throwing the towel in, it’s choosing to see this as an opportunity. Remi Garde is the best hope we have of building a different infrastructure to the club. I wish that didn’t have to happen from the championship but agree that youth, system and strategy will at least all get their chance.
garde is reported to be renting a flat in brum, so is he staying? I see some folk think a loss at Wycombe might be a good idea. Rubbish. Winning is a habit – get is asap
Unfortunately Grade won’t be praised for saving our Premier league status, but he will take a large proportion of the blame for our relegation, because we ain’t doing a Leicester.I don’t know much about the Championship other than its a bitch to get out of, Leeds, Forrest, Derby & Ipswich have been trying for years..
WBA done it a few times with contrasting managers (Roberto Di Matteo & Tony Mowbray) so I don’t think it’s just about ‘playing style’ Thera so many other things that come into the equation not least man management and an understanding of how your opponents are going to play.
As far as Garde is concerned imo the jury is still out and personally I won’t blame him for our relegation (it was a huge ask from the off)
Is he the right man to take us straight back up? I think that hinges not so much on the playing style, rather more so if the owner hands over the parachute payment to him.
Oh and although Hutton has made a few gaffs recently, its appears obvious to me that he has been instructed to bomb forward at every opportunity, so you would think that when that happens someone should be covering him?
Oh and he appears to be the only one who acknowledges the fans at the end of a game, so he gets a stay of execution in my book.
I think we should all have learned by now that changing the manager will solve absolutely nothing. its just about everything else that needs changing starting with the owner and board
Its alrite saying lets keep Remi in charge for the championship next year, but what about if he hasn’t won a game by then? Haha…
As mentioned in previous comment, his winless record will be a ball and chain around his neck. The longer that goes on, the more sympathy he’ll lose with supporters. Tough job and not exactly surrounded by people you would want to have your back.
Finally someone talking sense.
We need a long term view but too many Villa fans expect a new manager to be able fix all our problems. Clearly showing their lack of actual football knowledge.
yes he has to win games even if we do not survive in the Prem, defeat at Wycombe would be disasterous. But it is amazing people are even talking about the manager. If we sack Garde, no one of quality comes in and the third division looms.
Do fans seriously not understand the problems are in the boardroom? who appoints the donkeys who run this club?
By and large I think this is a sound analysis. Hard to see how any over-priced January purchases will save us now. The unanswered question is how much freedom and level of he will be given. We so desperately need a new owner committed to invest and management with long-term vision rather than eyes only for short-term profit.
There’s a side equation regarding Garde and that’s his winless record, which fans will grow tired of quickly. While January purchases could be a waste of time or at least a gamble in the short-term, unless they’re players for the future, he’ll need some decent players in just to help him win games this season to appease fans to give him a chance next season. Does that make sense?!
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