Aston Villa. Four wins in 51 league games, 1 win in 11 this season and yet another manager has been sacked, it has all gone horribly wrong incredibly quickly for the Birmingham side.
Villa, along with Nottingham Forest, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea are one of five clubs to have been crowned champions of Europe (1981/82), have won the English top flight on seven occasions, the FA Cup seven times and have claimed the English league cup five separate times.
But since the turn of the 21st century, The Lions haven’t notched up any kind of silverware before last season, finishing last in the Premier League on an embarrassing 17 points, claiming a measly 3 wins.
Things haven’t gone any better this season, one tier down in the Sky Bet Championship. After 11 league games, Villa sit 19th, only 2 points from safety and 15 points from current league leaders Huddersfield and it’s only October.
This poor start to the season has seen Roberto Di Matteo, the man who steered Chelsea to Champions League glory and who was drafted in to replace Remi Garde, lose his job after faring little better than his French predecessor, with assistant manager Steve Clarke temporarily taking charge.
Several managers have subsequently been linked to Villa Park, with caretaker manager Clarke in the running, as well as Steve Bruce and Bristol boss Lee Johnson. No matter who they appoint,he will be the fifth manager in just over two seasons when Paul Lambert was dismissed.
Tim Sherwood came in to replace the Scotsman, and looked to make an impact with his charisma and passion, but a bad start to last season’s league campaign saw him lose his job, with Frenchman Remi Garde taking the helm, and if anything he was even worse than Sherwood.
Garde left his post and in came Di Matteo, who with Clarke as his assistant looked like a decent bet of reviving the confidence-drained and demotivated Aston Villa side back to one that was capable of winning football and performing well.
But it hasn’t worked out and Villa are continuing to find themselves in a position of turmoil, now effectively back to square one as they search for a new manager, and in need of a quick fix as they potentially face doing a Wolves and sliding from the Premier League and the Championship in successive seasons.
So what actually is the problem?
I think, despite the obvious poor start, that it isn’t all down to the manager. I’m not necessarily suggesting Villa made a mistake in sacking Di Matteo because he didn’t look to be the right man to lead them forward in the long run, but a little continuity would hardly go a miss at Villa Park.
Steve Clarke may actually be a good option given his wealth of experience and relatively healthy track record at previous clubs, and the group of players are already familiar with him. However it could be argued a dramatic change is what the players need.
Ultimately what Aston Villa need is quite simply a little confidence in themselves. It’s not a big thing, but it is very hard to gain, and things are only getting worse for those who were at the club last season, who are still continuing to struggle despite dropping down a division.
Clearly, Di Matteo wasn’t the man to inspire the squad, ironically one of their former managers Tim Sherwood would probably be able to do that. If Villa can go 2 or 3 games unbeaten or even better get three wins on the bounce, their season could change drastically.
The atmosphere within the dressing room will be less suffocating, the media scrutiny would be less intense and the players won’t be so demoralised if they go behind or concede a goal.
Of course, recovering the sinking ship is incredibly hard to do, and although the players can try their utmost to recover the situation as best they can, it does require a certain type of manager, a passionate manager.
But whoever is appointed, something needs to change and quickly before The Lions find themselves in the third tier of English football when they really, given their infrastructure, ought to be in the first tier.
If nothing else, the fans deserve better. It’s going to be a crucial few months.
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