Can Tim Sherwood turn Aston Villa's fortunes around?

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While it is very early in the season, a slightly worrying trend is developing for Tim Sherwood and his Aston Villa side. In the first five games of this campaign, they have already dropped five points from winning positions. The main reason this is a concern for Tim Sherwood is that he will know that Aston Villa are a side that have been in their fair share of relegation battles in recent years and will be under no illusions as to how important every single point and fixture is in a Premier League season.

In the aftermath of the most recent collapse; coming against Leicester at the King Power Stadium, Sherwood was as honest as ever stating: “Who cares if we played well? We lost” and “We just have to stop the errors – sooner rather than later.” Villa did have some very good moments and played some great football at times. They had produced pretty much a perfect away performance until Ritchie De Laet’s flick and some near on-line heroics by Ashley Westwood. However, you can certainly understand Tim Sherwood’s honesty and frustration at seeing his team perform very well and then suddenly collapse to concede three late goals. They lost control in dramatic fashion, saying goodbye to what would have been a fantastic away victory against one of the Premier League’s form sides.

This season was never going to be an easy task for Aston Villa who; despite reaching the FA Cup final in 2015, finished 17th in the Premier League last season after a somewhat shaky first few months under Tim Sherwood. The Midlands side picked up a fairly average total of 16 points out of a possible 39 in the league, lost their captain in Fabian Delph, top-scorer in Christian Benteke, and also the frequently under-appreciated Tom Cleverley. Aston Villa have done the right thing in the transfer window and have invested heavily in bringing a number of big names from across Europe to the table as Sherwood undertook a fairly daunting rebuilding process.

Tim Sherwood himself is a relatively inexperienced manager but has a strong reputation in the game since his first job in management saw him lead Spurs to a sixth place finish in the 2013/14 season – a result which seemed almost unattainable when he took the reins. The current situation that is presenting itself to him is a perhaps the toughest of Sherwood’s short managerial career. At times Sherwood can appear tactically naïve and this was perhaps shown very acutely in Saturday’s match against Leicester. After Carles Gil fired in a stunning second for Villa, he was almost immediately substituted for Jordan Ayew. Within five minutes, Leicester had scored and Villa had to sure themselves up defensively. Sherwood decided to bring on Rudy Gestede for Agbonlahor, sacrificing any pressing up the field for the aerial ability of the former Blackburn striker in defensive set piece situation. However, within another five minutes of this change, it was 2-2 and at this point Aston Villa were visibly rattled.

Sherwood made his third and final substitution in the form of replacing Bacuna with Alan Hutton. This was a slightly odd decision for two reasons in my opinion. The first of which is that this was the first fully defensive swap that Sherwood made and it came with the score at 2-2. Surely a more astute swap would have been to replace one of the forwards with Hutton instead, and at an earlier stage of the game. Leicester were completely swarming Villa in midfield as the Villains could simply not deal with Mahrez dropping deep. Sherwood consequently paid the price with a centre midfielder sitting on his bench and two substitute forwards on the pitch who had nothing to work with as by this stage it was all Leicester City. Sure enough, three minutes after that change it was 3-2 and any points; and indeed most of the positives, were gone.

Tim Sherwood may have a lack of experience when it comes to being the main man at a club but he does have a lot of knowledge of the game. He would have gained this not only from his time as a professional player but also from his time spent working with some great managers, coaches, and players at White Hart Lane. He has also seemingly; for the time being at least, persuaded those at the top of Aston Villa football club that he is up to task after some strong financial backing throughout the transfer window.

Only time will tell as to whether Villa can put this poor form right and start putting teams away. It is of course a very early stage in the season but things need to change very quickly in the Premier League, especially with survival at stake. Villa have a very talented side, certainly too talented to be playing in the Championship, and should they start seeing out games and put together a good run of form, they should have relatively little trouble remaining in the top-flight. However, this could be argued for almost every team in the Premier League and it is much easier to have the points early than having to play catch up into the latter stages of the season, requiring a miraculous recovery in the style of Leicester City last season. With this being the case, it is almost certain that Tim Sherwood will be looking to nip this trend in the bud and starting putting some points on board and fulfilling the potential that he and Villa fans feel that this team has.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by Ian Johnson

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