Hawkeye Sidekick

Aston Villa – Harchester United In Disguise?

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Eight months in charge and Tim Sherwood has being shown the door. The manner of the departure was predicted on this blog weeks ago but the sacking raises further questions on the internal running of a football club who was once a great club which has now descended into frenzied chaos. Hawkeye Sidekick looks at the sacking and sees where Aston Villa go from here.

Sherwood Era

Let us be frank, this managerial period was just long enough to be a collegiate internship. Tim Sherwood rode into Aston Villa with optimism, emphasizing that the players would restore passion into the jersey. The results early door looked promising as Villa just managed to stave off relegation last season. The FA Cup run for some looked a distraction but it yielded the club’s best moment of the season; upsetting Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup semi-final. The cup run gave the club a feel good factor but the cup final humiliation to Arsenal was a defining turning point. Sherwood’s faith with certain player was not rewarded. The Villa players let him and the club down with an emphatically flat performance. Sherwood knew that massive reinforcements were required and so sets the background and context to one of the reasons why he was sacked.

Board Support

It is clear that Sherwood had not the full support of the club board. It sounds like Sherwood’s feedback on certain players went on deaf ears evident in his repeated attempts to sign Berbatov and Adebayor towards the latter end of the summer transfer window. The moves smacked of desperation but it showed that Sherwood knew that the club recruits brought into replace Christian Benteke were not of the quality required to offset the loss. Did Sherwood sanction the signings of Ayew and Gestede? Both players had potential, were young but were frankly risky signings for the club. It looks like the board had different views on who they wanted in the playing staff. It is a massive gulf in philosophy and to be honest, Sherwood’s day were numbered even before the season started.

Club in crisis

Aston Villa have being in crisis ever since Martin O’Neill left the football club. Yes, the cracks were starting to show in some respects but the club were comfortably upper mid-table. The one constant in this crisis has being the club board and owner Randy Lerner, an owner whose track record with Cleveland Browns is nothing to write home about. Lerner and rumors of selling the football club for the last eighteen months have created uncertainty throughout the football club. Their lack of support to the likes of Paul Lambert and Tim Sherwood in the transfer market has being damning. Does the club have to get relegated before the club board and owner make the right decisions? Who in their right mind would take on this job? A board who have failed to support new managers, whose transfer viewpoints has clashed in the predecessor. Zero long term club planning and there are massive questions on whether Lerner will still be at the helm come the end of the year. The drama at Villa Park mirrors a series of Harchester United. Player indiscipline off the pitch, fan unrest, no football philosophy, a board and owner who do know where the club should go, a youth setup which has shown promise but has not led to an influx of fresh faces to the first team in key positions. It has all gone very Pete Tong.

Managerial Candidates

Remi Garde is the favorite but is a massive massive risk for the football club. The club board believe that a Continental European manager will get the best out the likes of Gil, Ayew, Gestede but his record with Lyon was admirable but let us face facts, Villa need someone to keep them in the division. Does Garde have the relegation battle mentality for the job? Nice football to the eye is great but if it does not get results early doors, Villa will be cast further adrift. Garde’s French football contacts will be pivotal in January but will any players fancy a trench warfare battle? If Garde scares off the board, then a British manager is the other route. Brendon Rodgers name is linked but honestly will he want to return so soon to a football club with massive stabliity issues both on and off the pitch. There are no real viable candidates to get Villa out of this mire anytime soon. Sunderland have played a masterstroke with appointing Big Sam, they will stave off relegation with a bit to spare. Villa on the other hand  look condemned unless the playing staff unite and perform collectively for whoever is mad enough to take on the job.

Playing Staff

The squad looks short in many positions. The defensive side of the team needs serious repair. Guzan is a good shot stopper but question marks on decision making, penalty area command and general back four communication have being exposed well before Tim Sherwood took the Villa job. The signing of Mark Bunn has added little to goalkeeping competition as Shay Given departed for Stoke in the summer. The back four is plighted with injuries. Ron Vlaar should be leading the team but his knee problems have caused massive leadership issues in the club. The other center back options lack the leadership of Vlaar and it has showed this season, no-one organizing and calling out players for lack of effort and focus. Micah Richards has gone backwards since his City days. Ciaran Clark is the leader in waiting but his tendency to make a big mistake each game did not fill Sherwood with the confidence to give him an extended run in the side. The fact that the likes of Nathan Baker have left for Bristol speaks volumes. Joe Bennett? The midfield area attacking options look decent. Sinclair and Gil are talented football players who on their day can turn a game with their skill and pace. Grealish (yes mentioned in this blog for the last time) shows flashes but his early promise has not materialized this season; all hype at this time. The striker options look glaring even at this early stage. Gestede has not produced. Ayew not far behind. Both players are inferior to what Benteke and Weimann brought to the football club on the pitch. Agbonlahor is going to be asked to take on the mantle of chief goal scorer but with his recent injury problems, it is a mantle which could weigh heavily on a player whose pace is his main strength. The side is depleted in several positions. There is no quick fix. The likes of Vlaar, Richards, Westwood, Sinclair and Agbonlahor will need to step up and pull the rest of the squad with them. The continental European contingent have ducked away at certain intervals over the last year. The new incumbent manager will need to take note, early promise and loyalty to this squad will not achieve long term benefits. January will be a busy time for Villa to secure their status in the top flight.