‘’I know how important he is and we need to get him back to where he was’’ The exact quote that was said by Tim Sherwood about Christian Benteke on his first day in front of the press at Villa Park when becoming Paul Lambert’s successor in February; Sherwood set our clear intentions from the off that Benteke would be the man to save Villa by getting him back to his outstanding form he showed when he first joined the club.
What a sensational job Sherwood has achieved so far at Villa, however it will only prove successful should he ensure the Villans survive this seasons Premier League campaign, but following a recent spell of successful results, Sherwood seems to have been the correct appointment.
There wasn’t many harder jobs to step into as a manager taking over a team that had only scored 11 goals in 25 league matches, couldn’t find a win from anywhere and were proving themselves likely candidates for the chop from the Premier League.
However, Sherwood’s survival objectives for his new Villa side was to get six wins in their remaining fixtures and get Benteke back to his prolific form which saw him score 23 goals in his debut Premier League campaign and then Villa will survive, and that’s exactly what Villa are set to achieve.
In this new Sherwood era we’ve seen more features from Charles N’Zogbia and youngster Jack Grealish who were both out of favour under Lambert, but the duo along with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph prove clinical for Villa’s suited attacking style of play; moving the ball quickly and being the providers for Benteke.
The first signs of the revival of Benteke and also Villa’s season was the must win derby match at home against West Bromwich Albion, an energetic, powerful and creative performance from Benteke was rounded off with a stoppage time penalty winner, that’s what got things back on course for Villa with a 2-1 win.
The Belgian’s sign of good things to come soon continued, he had the backing of the fans again and he almost seemed a new man at Villa Park who wanted to play football again, unlike the lost soul under Lambert who couldn’t finish anything in the final third and wasn’t missed when on the injury list.
The next sign that there is still hope for the anxious Villa faithful was the away visit to The Stadium Of Light, where the traveling fans saw the 4-0 trouncing against Sunderland, Benteke seemed back to his best with quick attacking play, being feeded crosses from full-back Leandro Bacuna who bagged a brace of assists that game. Benteke was on the score sheet twice that game in which he outplayed both former Manchester United defenders John O’Shea and Wes Brown in every single aspect of their game; Benteke’s strike partner Agbonlahor also netted twice to see the pair put the season of misery in front of goal behind them. A diverse range of goals, from long balls, open play and also crosses showed Sherwood had produced a diverse range of tactics for his side to break down defences to suit his strike force.
Sherwood has completely rejuvenated the Villa squad and their playing style is incredible, the way they move the ball in the oppositions half is frightening and would cause any defence problems, although a short spell of defeats against Swansea and Man United gave a few supporters doubts again, they were soon to be put to bed.
In a month of menacing fixtures where Villa would face Man United, Manchester City and Tottenham away from home as well as a tie against Queens Park Rangers and an FA Cup semi-final match to look forward to, this was a month which some outsiders believed would see Villa fall into the relegation zone, however March’s opening couple of performances show something completely different. Excellent football has already been produced, but there’s still more to come.
A six-goal thriller at Villa Park against QPR saw Benteke hit the form of his life, he entered the game in form after scoring four goals in four league games, this tally nearly doubled in this game alone. Benteke ran riot and made QPR’s defence look a shambles, he hit the best form of his playing career so far securing a terrific hat-trick. When he had the ball at his feet he drove and drove at a helpless QPR defence and scored two goals when he charged directly forward and buried Rob Green in each occasion. He completed the hat-trick scoring a stunning late free kick which turned out to be the crucial equaliser. Villa’s attacking nature produced possibly their best display of football this season, but were still held to a 3-3 draw and Benteke looked in the best form he’s ever been in since his move to B6.
Villa now looked more dangerous than they ever had done attacking wise and couldn’t be more confident traveling to White Hart Lane on the back of a sublime performance in front of goal. Written off by many before the game even commenced, ex-Tottenham boss Sherwood had plans of his own, which again revolved around making Benteke our target man and it paid off. It may have not been the cleanest of goals but Benteke found the net again, and to no surprise it was another Bacuna assist from progressing down the right flank which has been encouraged by Sherwood. The 1-0 full time result has almost but secured Villa’s survival this season, but there’s still everything to play for, however with all Villa’s wingers and forwards playing exceptional week in week out there’s not much too fear.
Benteke has certainly raised his price tag again after a dip in performances following his world class opening season at Villa, but now since Sherwood’s appointment and playing to Benteke’s style, it has seen the talisman become leading goalscorer in the Premier League since Sherwood’s arrival scoring eight league goals since February 21st, closely followed by Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud on seven, but Benteke deserves the credit. The performances shouldn’t only give Villa hope for the remainder of this season, but also for seasons to come.
It’s simple, Sherwood is a tactical genius he knows how to get the team’s style of play right to fit the leading target man, we saw the exact same circumstances when at Tottenham with Emmanuel Adebayor, out of favour, couldn’t produce anything in the final third and really looked worthless to the club. It shows just how much of a positive impact it was sacking Lambert and bringing in the new man, a boost in morale, a boost in fan support and a boost in our match day performances have simply come from Sherwood developing or style of play to suit Benteke, something so obvious to Sherwood’s predecessor but failed to imply that right tactics for Aston Villa.
Tim certainly does know how important Benteke is to ensure survival for Villa and for their future and he is completely on course to get him back to where he was, with the likeliness of Benteke even exceeding those expectations based on recent elevated, consistent performances. He was immediately targeted by Sherwood and was labelled Villa’s key asset up front and there’s no one else to thank for his phenomenal performances other than his new boss.
£20 million target two years ago, Aston Villa should consider Abel Hernandez again
The Uruguayan is out of contract at Hull City this summer.
In the summer of 2016, Aston Villa were in talks to sign Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez from Hull City.
The £20 million deal looked to be good to go, until it came time to discuss salary, according to a report by the Sun.
It was claimed that Hernandez wanted £70,000-a-week to join Villa and then an increase to £100,000-a-week should Villa win promotion to the Premier League.
Those terms were considered unsatisfactory and Villa pulled the plug.
One year later, Hernandez was again linked with Villa.
Aston Villa chairman Tony Xia soon made it clear that wasn’t happening either. He was quoted by Birmingham Live as stating:
“Never will happen after last summer. Good for us.”
But what about this summer? Should Villa swoop for Hernandez once again?
There are many reasons why the Uruguayan would now be a more logical signing.
Hernandez is out of contract at Hull this summer.
The 27-year-old is therefore available on a free transfer, a massive bargain considering Villa were prepared to pay £20 million just two seasons ago.
Hernandez would also not be able to command such a wage on this occasion.
In 2016 the striker was coming off the back of scoring 22 goals in 45 games for the club and winning promotion to the Premier League.
Since then he has not been as prolific and also battled injury trouble. £70,000-a-week is simply not a possibility.
His best season with Hull actually came under the management of Steve Bruce, which might also help Villa in convincing Hernandez to Villa Park at a lower cost.
This season Hernandez managed just three games before suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon. In those three games, he scored three goals.
If Villa fail to earn promotion this season then there are not many better goalscorers available at this level – never mind on a free transfer.
Since returning to action Hernandez has played three times, scoring three goals – giving him a 100 per cent record of six goals in six games for Hull City this time.
If Villa can come to an understanding over wages, Hernandez would be the perfect summer signing.
Jonathan Kodjia could become an Aston Villa hero
The Ivorian is set to return to first-team action after the international break.
Aston Villa’s automatic promotion hopes have come off the rails in recent weeks. For a while, it seemed Villa were going to upset either Wolves or Cardiff and break into the top two in the Championship. After a run of just one loss and one draw in 12 games, which ended in a 4-1 thrashing of Wolves, it was easy to see why.
Unfortunately, those hopes have come crashing down to earth. Villa have suffered two shock defeats in their last two outings. Firstly there was the 3-1 home reverse to QPR. Last weekend it was the turn of Bolton Wanderers, with Villa losing 1-0 at the Macron Stadium.
The international break could therefore not come at a better time for Aston Villa, who will hope to see some of their regulars return to action after injury.
One such player could be Jonathan Kodjia. The Ivory Coast striker has not played since the 0-0 draw with Birmingham City in October. The 28-year-old is suffering from another ankle injury and has been sorely missed up front.
But it appears he is nearing a return.
Kodjia featured for 45 minutes of a behind-closed-doors friendly against Peterborough United at Bodymoor Heath.
His return to action would be a huge boost for Villa. Whilst Kodjia can be a frustrating figure at times, he is also a top striking option.
Last season Kodjia scored 19 goals in the Championship and his firepower at this level has been sorely missed. With Scott Hogan out of form Lewis Grabban has been handed the burden of finding the net, Kodjia will hope to ease that responsibility.
If he can return to action at Villa Park and score the goals that send them back to the Premier League he will go down in Aston Villa folklore as a hero.
For a man with Kodjia’s character, that is an opportunity he will try to not let pass.
Is Oscar Borg’s Aston Villa career at an end?
The young left-back is out of contract at Aston Villa this summer.
Back in March 2016, Aston Villa snapped up promising left-back Oscar Borg from West Ham United.
According to the Daily Mail, the defender had trials with Manchester United and was highly thought of at West Ham, but he made the move to Villa and was soon making an impact in the reserves.
Recently Aston Villa found themselves short of left-back options.
Neil Taylor was out of action and Alan Hutton was also missing. With Axel Tuanzebe struggling, Villa found themselves short in the position.
But instead of calling on Borg, Steve Bruce called up James Bree, playing out of position at left-back.
It seems Borg may not have been available for Bruce, even if the 20-year-old was set for a first league call-up.
He has not featured for Villa’s under-23s since the 6-1 win v Wolves last month, with Mitchell Clark featuring at left-back instead.
Borg is undoubtedly a top talent at Aston Villa but injuries have been a major problem for him since arriving at Bodymoor Heath.
He spent most of last season on the sidelines and this year needed to be a breakout campaign for the talented full-back.
Borg has played 13 times for Villa’s under-23s this term, as they hunt for success in the Premier League 2, where they are currently second in their section behind Blackburn Rovers.
But, despite being Villa’s only other natural left-footed left-back, bar Taylor, the 20-year-old has made little impact in the first-team.
Borg only signed a two-and-half-year deal when arriving at Villa in 2016 and that contract expires in the summer.
Considering his lack of impact and history of injury problems it will not be a surprise if Borg does not remain a Villain beyond the end of the season.
If he does move on, hopefully, he can remain fit and push toward a professional career elsewhere.
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