Will Villa play with a Squad or stick with just a Team next season?
Many moons ago in what was, for me, almost a different lifetime, I came across an extract from the writings and thinking of Albert Einstein, the great mathematician, which in paraphrase stated “The work that we have made, as a result of the thinking that we have done thus far, creates problems that cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created the problems”.
It sounds almost like gobbledegook, but it carries a fundamental truth along the lines of “If things go wrong or don`t work out don`t keep doing the same thing and hope that everything will sort itself out, because the chances are that won`t happen.” Or, to put it another way “If you are in a hole stop digging”.
In football terms that saying usually means, “If the squad has not done as well as might be expected then let`s have a change of manager”. Certainly changing the manager will bring about a change of thinking, because every football manager, at whatever level of the game, has their own ideas about who are the best players and how the team should play the game of football. The trouble is that this approach can also be expensive, because a good player in one manager`s view may not be so regarded by another manager. Witness Erikson`s refusal to play Gareth Barry while for Capello he is a key player.
So a new manager will want to bring in his own men. Also, into this equation should also be added the style of play that a manager prefers which raises the question “Does the manager adopt the style of play to suit the players he has available or change the team to suit the manager`s idea of how the game should be played?” That is the fundamental position for any team, its supporters and the Board.
Of course over a period of time a really good manager, and reluctantly I must put Ferguson from Man U in this category, will put together a squad of players who are capable a adapting the way they play to compete against all other styles and conditions and to be successful. Would that Villa were in that position! This brings us nicely to where Villa and Martin O`Neill are at this precise time.
From the standpoint of all but the top three clubs Villa can be rated a success. The fact that we have improved year on year under MON`s guidance is beyond question. Here, however, comes the “But” and there are at least two big ones.
Firstly, we have played our football predominantly to one style, which once the other teams have identified; many have had little trouble devising a counter strategy which has frustrated us time and again. Secondly, and this is also a key point, once again we played virtually the same team week in week out regardless of the fact that this past season we had a larger squad of good players; who, because they spent most of the year sitting on their back-sides, have found it difficult to fit comfortably into the team when called upon to do so. Football is now a squad game as all the best clubs throughout Europe have been demonstrating for years and a really good manager is one who can get the best out of the whole squad not just a favourite twelve or thirteen players. Sadly, in my opinion, Martin has not yet demonstrated that he can do this consistently or, alternatively, that he has the courage to change a winning team to adopt new tactics and style to raise us to the next level.
I believe that MON is capable of doing so, if he adopts a slightly different mindset. Instead of running his players into the ground, which happened once again this year all the squad should be up and raring to go. Put it another way, do you seriously think Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes would still be playing top class football if they played for Villa? No, of course not, yet they are both match winners for United virtually every time they play.
So, where are we with regard to strengthening the squad for next season? Mind you this is only really necessary if there is going to be some regular player rotation taking place. But regardless of that we certainly need at least one striker who, firstly, is capable of scoring twenty plus goals a season and secondly, scores regularly not in fits and starts as both Gabby and Big John seem to do. That is regardless of whether or not the Fonz gets more starts (which I hope he does).
Also we need a play-maker, someone with vision and the ability to do the unexpected now and again so Martin can change the style somewhat if that is necessary and perhaps to give Milner a break now and again. I was going to say perhaps we need someone to challenge Downing and Ashley Young and also a Petrov replacement as well. They, along with Friedel and the three CB`s seem to be the ever presents (that is virtually the whole team I have listed). Then I realised that, reportedly, we have some superb young players in the reserve and youth teams that should be coming through to join the squad.
But they won`t, will they? Unless there is a change of approach and, as part of a strong squad, they get some first team experience; they will never be able to compete at the top level.
So we are back to where we started, the current thinking of the manager has caused a problem that cannot be solved by continuing to think along the lines he did last season. It takes some courage to be prepared to change your management style but, hey, MON has that in spades.