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Aston Villa

How can Roberto Di Matteo’s successor at Aston Villa change the club’s fortunes?



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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Aston Villa

Aston Villa want Stephane Bahoken, who had woeful St Mirren loan in 2013-14

Aston Villa and a heap of other teams want the Cameroon international this summer.



Aston Villa are said to be one of four English teams chasing the Strasbourg striker Stephane Bahoken this summer. France Football says Villa are keen, along with Swansea and Stoke City. The Express also mention Brighton, stating the Seagulls are frontrunners for the player.

Aston Villa’s interest will not be a surprise to many. They were heavily linked with Bahoken’s signature in January as well. SFR reported in the winter that Aston Villa wanted to bring him in on loan until the end of the season. Strasbourg refused but with his contract expiring this summer Aston Villa look set to return.

(Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images)

But something that is not being spoken about from the player’s past is his loan spell at Scottish side St Mirren.

Bahoken joined the Paisley side on loan from former club Nice in the summer of 2013. It should have been an exciting experience for the club and the player, but it was anything but.

Bahoken played four times for the club before the deal was cancelled in December. After a month in which another loan move failed to be ratified he headed back to the Scottish Premiership side. But, he did not play another game for the club. Four games, zero goals. It was a disaster for the Cameroonian striker.

Such a disastrous stint north of the border must be something Aston Villa and any other interested party will be concerned about.

(Photo credit should read XAVIER LEOTY/AFP/Getty Images)

He himself even admitted to being like a ‘spoilt kid’ at the club when talking to the Daily Record. He vowed to become a man.

It would be fair to say Bahoken has come a long way since his disastrous loan in Scotland.

After leaving Nice for Strasbourg in 2014 he quickly became very important for the team. This season he has scored seven goals in 23 games and his displays even earned him a first call-up to the Cameroon national team this year.

Aston Villa know that his signature would be a risk, based on his St Mirren disaster and rather muted goal record.

But seeing as he is a free transfer, it might be worth rolling the dice.

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Aston Villa

Lovre Kalinic best keeper in Belgium, two years after red tape scuppered Aston Villa move

The Croatian has been in fine form since his move to KAA Gent.



Back in January 2016, it looked like Aston Villa had found themselves a new goalkeeper. It looked like Croatian stopper Lovre Kalinic was on his way to join Villa – who at the time seemed doomed to relegation from the Premier League. The giant goalkeeper had been in talks with Villa for some time and the Daily Mail reported that a £4.9 million fee had been agreed between Villa and his club, Hajduk Split.

It soon emerged however that Kalinic would not be making the move. As reported by Index Kalinic did not have the requisite qualifications to be eligible for a work permit to play football in the UK. He had not fulfilled the quota of playing 75 percent of games for Croatia in the past two years – playing just once.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

That summer Aston Villa signed Italian Pierluigi Gollini, whilst Kalinic remained in Croatia until the following January. In the winter window of 2017, the goalie headed to Belgium, joining KAA Gent for a club record fee.

To say his move has been a success would be an understatement. Kalinic has been in fine form for the Belgian side. Despite playing just half of last season he was named the Goalkeeper of the Season in Belgium. He has just received the same accolade for the current campaign.

Aston Villa eventually did find a new goalkeeper, with Sam Johnstone arriving on loan from Manchester United.

But with his deal expiring at the end of the season, and Villa chasing promotion, should they return for Kalinic two years down the line?

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images,)

The 28-year-old is clearly good enough to make the step to English football and at one point was very excited to head to Villa Park.

He has played much more regularly for the Croatian national team and is now in a genuine battle with Monaco’s Danijel Subasic to be number one at this summer’s World Cup. If Kalinic can get the nod there, then a work permit will no longer be an issue.

With Johnstone only on loan, Aston Villa need to consider the fact they might need to find a different keeper in the summer. Two years ago they found the perfect man for the job in the form of the 6ft 5ins goalie but red tape stopped his arrival.

This summer they should surely consider going for Kalinic once again.

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Aston Villa

Ritchie De Laet has now been dropped by his loan club

The Aston Villa defender is now struggling for football at Antwerp.



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When Aston Villa started to make wholesale improvements to the squad in the summer of 2016 they went on a spending spree bringing in talent good enough for the Premier League. One man they snapped up was even a Premier League winner the season before.

Ritchie De Laet was snapped up in the summer of 2016 after a season in which he won both the Premier League with Leicester City and promotion with Middlesbrough whilst on loan.

Considering he had also won promotion with Leicester in 2014, he looked the perfect addition to the Aston Villa fold.

Unfortunately, that has not proved to be the case.

The Belgian defender, who cost a fee reported by The Sun to be in the region of £2.5 million, was earmarked as the solution to Villa’s problem position of right-back.

However, De Laet never managed to have any sustained impact at Villa. He played just three times in his first season at the club before picking up a knee injury against Brentford. He was subsequently ruled out for the rest of the season.

This term he managed to feature sporadically through the first-half of the season but in January found himself out of contention. The 29-year-old was therefore sent out on loan to his boyhood club Royal Antwerp until the end of the season.

He immediately went into the starting XI for the Belgian side but has recently been dropped for the Europa League play-off fixtures.

It comes after a switch to 3-5-2 from his loan club, who have preferred to play Benfica loanee Aurelio Buta at right wing-back ahead of De Laet.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

This will certainly not have been the plan for De Laet, who will have hoped to have found his best form again in Belgium. However, it has not been that straightforward and he now finds himself on the bench.

This summer will be interesting for De Laet. It certainly does not seem as though Steve Bruce sees him as an Aston Villa player in the future. If the Villans can also capture promotion, it is expected new faces will arrive to push De Laet even further down the pecking order.

Thriving out on loan might have changed the mind of a few figures at Villa Park.

But seeing as he is not even an immediate starter with Antwerp, Aston Villa will likely consider him dispensable in the summer.

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