The Aston Villa View: Is Garde the man?

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The Football Lab interviewed Aston Villa fan Richard Dalton on the recent events at Villa Park. Richard reflects on a poor transfer window for his club, he says why Tim Sherwood had lost the respect of the fans and discusses whether Remi Garde is the right man to keep the Villans up.

Tim Sherwood was sacked by Aston Villa at the end of October following a 2-1 defeat to Swansea. Was this something you expected?

It certainly did not come as a shock when Sherwood was sacked. There had been so much speculation in the media that he had 2 games to save his job and quite frankly I was very surprised  he was given those games. It was obvious that there were some unrepairable issues between Sherwood and the board. His team selections were full of hidden agendas and his mind had completely gone with one contradiction after another. It shows what a shambles the club has become at board room level that they did not act earlier when it was clear that Sherwood was putting his own agenda before managing the football club.

One of the main areas where Sherwood let himself down was his handling of the media. Do you think his behaviour, which seemed childish at times, meant that players and fans lost their respect for him?

I think Sherwood’s biggest problem is his own ego and although he comes over as a confident character I believe that is a front and deep down he’s very insecure and does not believe in himself as much as many would believe.

There is little doubt that the majority of fans including myself had lost respect for Sherwood long before his dismissal. When he entered the club he was a breath of fresh air and most fans took to him instantly but his behaviour this season had been so poor that even his biggest admirers could not tolerate him any longer. He made mistakes at Leicester which are well documented and from that point onwards he seemed to be rolling out one contradiction after another.  He was clearly protecting ‘brand Sherwood’ and his own ego. When results were not going our way he decided to start blaming player recruitment despite stating numerous times he was excited by the group pre season. He did not appear to have the will or ability to work with the group of players he had and as a result he tried to lay the blame elsewhere. At no time did he consider anyone but himself which quite frankly I found disgraceful.

I believe some players still support Sherwood, the vibe I get from Micah Richards is that many are disappointed. I guess their disappointment comes  from the fact Garde will come in and expose the obvious flaws in the game of many of Sherwood’s favourites. I am sure the majority of new signings as well as Gil will be delighted that he’s no longer in the hot seat.

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Tim Sherwood

A common criticism of Sherwood is that he is tactically poor. Is this something you would go along with?

When he entered the club in February results were initially quite poor and his tactics appeared to be based around a direct approach. He then introduced Grealish into a 4-4-2 diamond or played a Terry Venables Christmas tree formation. At this time we appeared to be tactically much better, not perfect but there was an obvious style of play and all players had brought into playing without fear. At times individual errors cost us but generally we put in some very good performances, particularly in a 3-2 loss at Man City where we dominated the Champions for long periods and deserved so much more. When this season started I do not think Sherwood really knew how he wanted the side to play, tactically we were poor every game, there was no obvious style or approach.

His team selections became beyond bizarre. Constantly leaving out Carlos Gil who was outstanding at Leicester, by far the best individual  performance of the season. He then decided to recall Richardson for Amavi, the latter had been very good at the beginning of the season and Sherwood had intimated pre season that Richardson was not good enough and needed to be moved on. He played 5 at the back against Stoke with Gil and Grealish the dominant and creative players a couple of weeks previous at Leicester left on the bench.

I am sure Sherwood will blame the lack of quality but I certainly believe his ego and self preservation tactics scrambled his mind and as a result transferred to some horrendous displays on the pitch.

7 of the new players who joined Villa this summer came in so late that they had essentially no pre-season. Do you have some sympathy with Sherwood in terms of the slow transfer business?

I do have some sympathy that it was not ideal however he was a very lucky man to be managing Aston Villa in the first place; instead of sulking and trying to protect his own image he should have taken on the challenge. The biggest error in the transfer market was replacing Benteke with Gestede which Sherwood openly admits was one of his preferred signings.

The replacement is Remi Garde, formerly manager of Lyon. What are your thoughts on this appointment?

He has a huge job to rescue the club, however he does have time and the gap is unbelievably still only 4 points. I have called out for this type of appointment since the winter of 2014 and finally the board have gone away from appointing up and coming or supposedly proven British coaches. Garde did a very good job of rebuilding a big club in Lyon when they were in a tough situation; I am hoping that he can do the same at Villa. He has a reputation of being tactically astute, something we haven’t seen at Villa for a very long time. The majority of fans and neutrals seemed desperate to push the credentials of the likes of Moyes and Pearson; I am delighted we have avoided such an appointment. Experience of the league is overrated; Koeman, Bilic and Pochettino have all come in and shown that they can more than mix it without any experience.

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Remi Garde

Villa’s main problem is that they are not scoring enough goals, rather than conceding too many. Do you think it’s harder for a new manager coming in when the task is to get the team playing with more confidence, and not to simply re-organize them?

I think there are problems are at both ends of the pitch. Garde will have his own style and I believe his approach will suit many of the summer imports as well as players such as Grealish and Gil. I am sure Garde’s own style will improve us both defensively and offensively. There is no doubt we are a striker (or two) short; Gestede is not good enough and Gabby continues to regress year after year. Short term he has no choice but to play with Ayew up front and just hope we can get to January still in touch when a new striker will be a priority. I was gutted that we did not pull off the signing of Dwight Gayle on transfer deadline day he would be ideal to have in the squad at this time.

Aston Villa have 8 squad members who have previously played in France and 6 who speak French. Do you think the French connections will help Garde settle in?

I think it will be more a case of Garde coming in will help them settle and progress their careers. Garde has lived and played in England under Wenger at Arsenal so I doubt he will struggle to adapt to the lifestyle and I believe his English is excellent.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan has made a few costly errors this season. Do you need to find a replacement for him in January?

Yes no doubt about that. He should have been replaced in the summer. Sherwood dropped him last season and everyday there was speculation about who the new keeper would be. Guzan is not good enough; he had 1 decent season as a shot stopper but his distribution is horrific and in the modern game the goalkeeper must be able to play comfortably with his feet, as well as see the picture in front of him to start the counter attack. I think Mark Bunn or Jed Steer (if he can be recalled) deserve to play its obvious Guzan’s confidence has gone and equally as important his team mates confidence in him has gone.

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Jordan Amavi

Jordan Amavi looks to have been one of Villa’s better players so far. Do you think Garde will identify the left-back as a key man?

He will surely be back in the side on Sunday. He looked a fantastic player early season, he had every attribute that the modern day full back requires. The way Sherwood treated him was a disgrace. I expect him to thrive under Garde.

Centre-back Jores Okore is just coming back from injury. Do you think his return will aid Villa?

Okore was excellent last season when he played and he is far better than Ciaran Clark or Joleon Lescott. If he plays with Richards then he might have to revert to a left sided centre back position which might not be ideal. I certainly believe Okore deserves to be in the best 11 and I do look forward to his return.

Jack Grealish was one of the players who was disappointed to see the previous manager leave. Can Garde get the best out of him?

Jack is an exceptional talent, a very clever player that can cause havoc going forward. I am hoping that Garde’s style of play will suit Jack’s game. He is a far better player when he has players around him that are technically sound and move quickly and directly; his understanding with Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph was superb. He played very well alongside Gil against Leicester and I see the potential of those 2 working well together again. Although it will not be as effective if Gestede plays up front; his movement, basic technique and general football intelligence is so poor that Jack and Gil will struggle to penetrate defences alongside him.

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Rudy Gestede

Rudy Gestede has scored 35 goals in 73 appearances for Championship side Blackburn Rovers, but many of those goals were with his head. Do you think Garde will look to play to the target man’s strengths or stick to his own passing principles?

I am hoping Gestede finds himself on the bench at very best. His only strength is that he is decent in the air when inside the penalty box but in the modern game that is way short of what is required. His touch, movement, game intelligence and basic mobility are awful, he is up towards the top of the worst villa players I have ever seen (and believe me there have been some bad ones).

You predicted an 11th place finish for Villa in the summer. Are you sticking with that or do you foresee a struggle between now and May?

I think I must have predicted that after a night out with Gascoigne and Merson! I was genuinely hopeful that the new arrivals would make an impact and at the time of the prediction I did expect a top centre forward and goalkeeper to be purchased as well. We have had some close calls over the past 4-5 years but I have never actually believed we would go down. Unless Garde can have a serious impact then this might be the year we drop out; I believe with the addition of a decent striker the squad is good enough to survive but we already have catching up to do.

Thanks to Richard for answering the questions. You can follow him on Twitter @ContactCounts