Team Focus – Aston Villa: What Next?

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Aston Villa. A name synonymous with the Premier League. The first team in the world of football which wore the famous claret and blue colours and are rich in history in both England and the continental stage as well as being part of the elite group of teams that have never been relegated from the Premier League which includes Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham and Chelsea until a few weekends ago when Manchester United condemned the Villains to relegation to the championship after 1-0 loss with the winner being scored by 18-year-old Marcus Rashford, a man whose younger than Aston Villa’s top flight stay. Aston Villa have endured an absolute torrid and terrible season that has gone downhill since their opening day win against Bournemouth, that being one of their three league wins all seasons. Since then there have been so many bad stories and bad press about the club it’s hard to keep up. From Lescott ‘accidentally’ tweeting a picture of his car right after a 0-6 drubbing at home to Liverpool to Gabriel Agbonlahor being suspended by stand in manager Eric Black after video clips were discovered of the club captain smoking shisha and inhaling laughing gas, the club’s season in a whole can be encapsulated in one moment, their senior squad losing 3-0 to their U21 team. The real question is, how have Aston Villa become England’s biggest laughing-stock?

So what’s happened? Aston Villa finished rock bottom of the Premier League, dropping out of England’s top flight for the first time in 29 years after last been relegated in 1987, just less than a year club captain Gabriel Agbonlahor was born. Following last season’s FA cup final the club went through a mixed summer as they brought in a lot of players for a lot of money like Premier League winner Micah Richards, Rudy Gustede from Blackburn Rovers as well as Idrissa Gueye, one of the best performing midfielders in Ligue 1 last season but had their spine ripped out of their team. This was a pivotal period as they lost Ron Vlaar after letting his contract run out due to his persistent injury woes, failing to agree terms with Man Utd midfielder Tom Cleverley and losing out on him to Everton, Delph making a U-turn on his decision of leaving a week after making a statement to join Manchester City in an £8m deal and selling Benteke to Liverpool for £32.5m, leaving them bereft of actual Premier League proven quality, which ultimately signalled their demise. It started so well for Sherwood and his men as they recorded an opening day victory against Bournemouth, as they were 3rd in the table behind Leicester City and Crystal Palace. This is where it went sour as they went on 9 game winless streak which oversaw them collect just a single point as well as lose at home to West Brom and after defeat against fellow struggles Swansea, Tim Sherwood was given his P45 and booted out of Villa Park. They acted swiftly by appointing former Arsenal player and Lyon manager Remi Garde, but without some acts of incompetence, a familiar sight for the course of the season. His first match was against Manchester City, in which he draw 0-0, giving the Villains their first point in 7 games. This was followed with two losses before another point gained before earning a good point away to Southampton. This started an ever so slight turn of events as they collected 2 draws in a row before winning their first Premier League game since August against Crystal Palace in a 1-0 win at Villa park, the same result against Bournemouth. This was swiftly overlooked as a valentine’s day home thumping from Liverpool and Lescott tweeting a picture of his expensive car minutes after the game, stating it was a ‘mistake.’ This was followed by 6 straight defeats and Gabby resigning as club captain before Manchester United condemned them to relegation, finishing with 16 points, the 3rd lowest points total in Premier League history and arguably been the worst Premier League team ever. Ironic really, a falling giant delivering the final blow to the fallen giant.

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Infographic showing Aston Villa’s decline under Remi Garde

In terms of the future although the short-term looks very bleak, the long-term future looks more promising as the much-hated Randy Lerner sold 100% of the club to Dr Tony Jiantong Xia, A Chinese businessman for a figure believed to be around the £60m mark. Following approval from the FA, he will become the club’s chairman with immediate effect and start the search for a new manager to replace interim manager Eric Black. This will usher in a new era for the club and it gives the club a fresh start and a new platform in which they can rebuild the structure of the club and getting rid of Lerner brings them that one step closer to getting rid of the toxic atmosphere currently at Villa Park. Another potential source of hope is the fact that Stiliyan Petrov potentially may sensationally return back to Aston Villa either as a player or as one of the club members, although the Bulgarian has stated he’d like to get back into playing. At 36, he won’t offer much in terms of genuine quality as he has been out for so long but his mere presence back at the club will uplift the club, the fans and the whole of Aston to get them jumping again. What he’d lack in pace he’d bring experience, calmness and a cool head in abundance which Villa need, just to attempt to stabilize the club, or at the very least get the fans back on the club’s side. This is without even mentioning the players. Sure the focus has been on players like Lescott, N’Zogbia and Agbonlahor for all the wrong reasons and this overshadows the good players they have in their squad. A spine of Amavi, Clark, Westwood, Gueye, Ayew and a decent keeper is a good base to start from for the championship and if they manage to keep Micah Richards, things aren’t as bad as they seem. They also aren’t short of young talent with players like Jack Grealish, Andre Green and Kevin Toner.

Pundits and football fans pretty much had  a unanimous thought regarding Aston Villa, they’re doomed and are destined for a plummet worse than Portsmouth and Wolves put together. On the face of it does indeed look very bad for the Birmingham club, but when you delve deeper into the structure and inner workings of the club, even though there is a large scope for improvement, there are positives to take and signs that Villa can come straight back up from the devastating chain of events that have led to the club’s current state.

I personally find it extremely sad that a club so richly embedded into English club history finds themselves in this current predicament and I wish them the best in their quest back into the Premier League and beyond, where they rightfully belong.

 

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