Aston Villa are looking for their fifth manager in just five years after the sacking of Tim Sherwood. The second city club sit precariously at the foot of the Premier League with four points from a possible 30 after one win in ten games with their only victory against newly promoted Bournemouth on the opening day of the season at the Vitality Stadium.
Following Sunday morning’s announcement relieving Sherwood of his duties and shortest rein of any Aston Villa manager, totalling just eight months, in truth contained good times. Retaining the club’s ever-presence status in the Premier League since its inception in 1992, reaching the 2015 FA Cup final (despite the result) and beating fierce local rivals Birmingham City, but ultimately coincided with the bad times that Villa fans have accustomed themselves too over the last five years.
Sherwood’s second attempt at Premier League management ended conclusively due to his inexperience and inept tactical knowledge on and off the field. Favouritism or stubbornness for certain players, perceived as either, never helped the former Premier winning captains’ case. Purposely leaving out players who were reported to not have been his targets prevented and delayed Villa’s challenge on the top ten.
Front runner for the role is former Lyon manager Remi Garde, who was incidentally former Villa first-team coach Gerard Houllier’s assistant at Olympique Lyonnais. The potential appointment would make interesting reading due to majority of Villa’s transfer recruitment drive over the summer, thought to have been done, by Director of Recruitment Paddy Riley and Sporting Director Hendrik Almstadt. The fact four (Jordan Ayew, Jordan Veretout, Jordan Amavi and Idrissa Gueye) of Villa’s 12 summer signings were from Ligue One will intensify speculation that this move for Garde was pre-planned in the summer.
Garde played for Arsenal from 1996-1999 winning the double in the 1997-98 season and due to Villa’s growing connection with Arsenal after the arrivals of Tom Fox, Riley and Almstadt the former defender has thought to have been recommended personally by current manager Arsene Wenger.
Whoever was responsible for the transfer recruitment drive, that included several trips via the Eurostar to France, certainly believed the signings were made to improve Villa, they were right, unfortunately Sherwood didn’t see the same ideology. Three Jordans’ were signed from Ligue One, Amavi, Veretout and Ayew with the other French import being box-to-box midfielder being Idrissa Gueye. Premier League stalwarts Micah Richards, Joelon Lescott and Scott Sinclair were brought in alongside exciting prospects Adama Traore, from Champion League winners Barcelona and Thiago Ilori from Liverpool, on loan. Mark Bunn, Jose Crespo and Rudy Gestede completed the summer transformation.
Alongside the most exciting prospect from the prestigious Bodymoor Heath academy since Gary Cahill, in Jack Grealish, ‘number 10’ Carles Gil and future England international Ashley Westwood, fans were expectant and optimistic for the first time in a long while. Despite losing 4-0 to Arsenal at Wembley in the FA Cup final in May an onslaught on the top ten of the Premier League was on the minds of many a man, women and child who wear the claret and blue of Aston Villa football club with pride.
Unfortunately it couldn’t have gone any worse, certainly key decisions by Sherwood such as bringing on Jordan Ayew (a striker), instead of a defender, when 2-0 up away at high-flying Leicester City or defensive formations at home against West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City didn’t help turn fans on side during difficult times.
Eight Villa players capable of helping Aston Villa challenge for the top 10:
Micah Richards: Turned down a lucrative contract with fellow Premier League outfit Sunderland to sign for Villa on a free and was immediately made captain by Sherwood replacing the departed Ron Vlaar.
Facing an impending charge by the FA for a disagreement in the tunnel after the 2-1 home defeat to Swansea with defender Federico Fernandez.
Richards might be missing for Villa in the foreseeable future, but has been Villa most impressive player both on a defensive sense, making last gasp challenges and marshalling a bewildered back-four, additionally even in an attacking sense as well.
Joleon Lescott: Signed for the mere price of £1 million from local rivals West Brom after being named Baggies’s Player of the Season last season, after keeping 15 clean sheets (most than any player in the 2014/15 season). Despite being substituted at half-time on more than one occasion this season, the former England international holds the record for being the highest scoring defender in one season (8 for Everton in 2007/08), will thrive under a new manager.
Jores Okore: Rejected Chelsea (replaced by Kurt Zouma) in search for first-team football at Aston Villa has endured had an injury plagued career at Villa Park, including a season-ending ACL injury. Has looked assured in Villa’s back-four since returning from the ACL injury, but is yet to make an appearance this season due to off-season surgery. The Denmark international is now fully-fit and will be raring to go.
Jordan Amavi: A £9 million signing from Nice on the 24th October made the most tackles and interceptions than any other player (223) in the top five leagues in Europe before being unexpectedly dropped by Tim Sherwood in favour of Kieran Richardson. The French international’s attacking persona, especially his crossing ability from deep or the byline, will give fans the lasting impression he is the best ball-crossing defender in the Premier League.
Ashley Westwood: One of the first names on the team sheet under former manager Paul Lambert and one of Villa’s most underrated players. The former Crewe Alexandra captain will surely be a England international in the near future, but has fallen under criticism from Sherwood and was dropped for the weekend defeat to Swansea. His passing ability around the field is a joy to behold.
Westwood so this season has completed 396 passes, an accuracy of 85%, of which 78% were forward passes. The 33rd highest in the Premier League, including 17 key passes to teammates.
Idrissa Gueye: Brought-in to replace former captain Fabian Delph, the Senegalese captain has taken the reins and, when fit, marshalled Villa’s midfield. Box-to-box midfielder could be considered a rare talent for his energetic displays breaking up play and creating goal-scoring opportunities. Scouted by the likes of Spurs, Everton and Liverpool before joining Villa.
Carles Gil: Once considered surplus to requirements at the end of last season and therefore this season by former assistant manager Ray Wilkins has finally been reintegrated back into the Villa first team to the relief of the Villa Park faithful. The former Valencia playmaker is the club’s most creative player and can, if given the chance, change a game like Messi or Aguero can do for Barcelona or Manchester City respectively.
Jack Grealish: Still only 20 years of age the Villa academy graduate has already attracted the interest of Manchester City and Chelsea this season and could be considered Villa’s best player. Possessing the ability to change a game, demonstrated against Birmingham City in the 1-0 Capital One Cup victory, he has proven to be able to frighten opposition players into making any kind of challenge they can to stop him.
Adama Traore: Raised more than a few eyebrows when he signed for Aston Villa in August, due to being considered one of the most upcoming talents in Europe; one reason why Barcelona inserted a buy-back clause in his Villa contract. Now fully-fit after a spate of injuries, the right-winger, who can also play as a striker, is arguably one of the best wingers in the Premier League on his day and has the potential to replicate the success achieved by the likes of Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata over the last few years.
With Villa’s next three games firstly dauntingly away at title challenging Spurs then Everton, separated by a home game against Manchester City, everyone associated with the club will be hopeful of the next manager being appointed and introduced to his newly inherited squad before the game against at White Hart Lane on Sky Monday Night Football on 2nd November, kick-off 20:00.
In the January transfer window, whoever is managing Villa, be it Garde, Moyes or Pearson, a new goalkeeper and striker will have to top of their shopping list.
Guzan, Richards, Okore, Iloris, Amavi, Westwood, Veretout, Gueye, Grealish, Gil and Traore is certainly not a relegation threatened team.