It’s not a good time to be an Aston Villa fan; then again, it hasn’t been for a while. The Villains are languishing at the bottom of the league with just five points after the 13th round of matches, and are winless in their last ten. No Premier League team has ever stayed up having amassed so few points at this stage of the season and with Sunderland securing and vital 1-0 away win against Crystal Palace, Villa already find themselves four points adrift of 19th place.
The Claret and Blues have been circling the proverbial Premier League drain for the last few years, having averaged just 39 points in the last 3 campaigns. You have to go back to the 2009/10 season to see any real ambition from the club when they finished 6th, just three points behind an expensively assembled Manchester City side. It seems though that ambition came primarily from then manager Martin O’Neill, who resigned the following summer, reportedly disappointed at the lack of transfer funds available.
Therein lies the problem. The people at the top of the club seem happy to just stay in the Premier League each year, rather than actually compete in the damn thing. Where’s the ambition? When was the last time you thought, “Oh I can’t wait to watch Match of the Day tonight, Aston Villa are playing”? It’s been a long time even/especially (delete as applicable) if you’re a Villa supporter.
Questionable decision-making in the transfer market hasn’t aided their plight. In the summer, Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph left for Liverpool and Manchester City respectively and were replaced by a host of players with no Premier League experience. We saw Liverpool adopt that policy the previous summer with ‘The Suarez Money’, and Spurs the year before with ‘The Bale Money’. It didn’t work for either of them, so why would it work this time?!
It’s not just the transfer policies, however; Aston Villa have been downsizing on managers too, in terms of experience if nothing else. When they hired Paul Lambert he had only one season of Premier League experience. He was followed by Tim Sherwood with only six months experience and now Remi Garde has taken the helm having never managed an English club before. These are good managers but at the lower end of the table, you feel a manager who’s been around the block a few time will usually hold the advantage.
Remi Garde has been given a baptism of fire facing Tottenham, Manchester City and Everton in his first 3 games in charge. A well-earned point against City shows that all hope may not be lost, but that result was sandwiched between two humbling defeats against the two top-four hopefuls; losing 3-1 to Spurs and 4-0 at the weekend to an impressive Everton team, who could have won by eight or nine.
It’s against the mid-table and struggling sides where Garde’s men will need to pick up the majority of their points if they are to survive the drop, so next Saturday’s home tie with Watford will be provide the first real test of his credentials. Even if Garde does steer Aston Villa clear of relegation this season, which my money is against, there needs to be a change in the culture at boardroom level, because from the outside, there seems no desire to achieve anything and the fans deserve better.