Aston Villa mid-season review

aston villaThe Football Lab interviewed Aston Villa supporter Matt Whitehouse. You can follow him on Twitter @The_W_Address

Aston Villa have scored the lowest amount of goals in the Premier League. Is this down to a lack of quality, or negative tactics from your previous manager, Paul Lambert?

The quality isn’t necessarily the issue. However players brought in the summer; Kieran Richardson, Joe Cole and Tom Cleverley haven’t helped push the team forward. Blame should be aimed at Lambert for this. With Carles Gill and Scott Sinclair arriving in January it seemed the move towards more creative players was sought. That being said, it was too late for Lambert to change the teams fortunes. A lack of goals resulted from a lack of chances created. Lambert’s issue became one of style and application. As the season went on Lambert looked to become a continually isolated figure in the dugout. Interviews and press conferences came across more dejected and baffled by the teams results each week. He looked like he had lost his spark, the energy had gone and this was reflected on the pitch. Villa looked like a team who had no leader, both on and off the pitch. The teams change in style seemed baffling. The counter attack, which seemed to have worked previously, was replaced by a more possession based style. Villa’s performances looked to be something you would see in Academy football; nice passing, keeping possession, yet little attacking presence and very much open and poor defensively. As Villa kept more possession the less likely to score they looked. Under Lambert they were destined for relegation. Under Tim Sherwood there is a sense that Villa will be more attacking, yet one wonders if they can get the required the points needed.

Centre-back Ron Vlaar has been out injured for long spells this season. How important a player is he?

A year ago I would have said Vlaar was a key figure in the team. After an impressive World Cup it seemed likely we would either lose him or he would depart on a free at the end of the season. Unfortunately no-one came in for him and now we have a player who has suffered with injury and who perhaps isn’t 100% focused on his time with Villa. In his absence Jores Okore and Ciaran Clark have looked very good, and these may be the two who Sherwood should look to build his defence around in the coming weeks.

Right-back Alan Hutton seems to be playing well this season. Have you been pleased with his performances?

It has been a big surprise to see Hutton not only return to the team but play very well. He was seemingly ostracised by Lambert previously used Matthew Lowton and Leandro Bacuna however he seemed to have lost faith and trust in both. This has been disappointing as both offered positive contributions to Villa’s attack in previous seasons. While Hutton has been decent, one wonders if Lowton or Bakuna may have been better options to help the lack of goals.

There seems to be a lack of creativity in Villa’s midfield. Will the additions of Carles Gil and Scott Sinclair help this? Should Jack Grealish get more games?

Jack Grealish is a very talented young player who has impressed when out on loan and also when given his (limited) chances in the first team. Lambert didn’t see sold on him, perhaps because he saw him as a luxury player who he couldn’t rely on. Unfortunately, for a team lacking in creative spark Grealish may have been a key player for Villa’s lack of chances and goals. With Gill and Sinclair now in the team it seems Grealish’s opportunities may be limited under Sherwood, yet the new manager may wish to embrace the talented youth and bring some fresh dynamism to the team.

Christian Benteke has not been at his best this season. Has his progress been hampered by the injury he had for the first few months?

Ever since Benteke suffered his injury after his first season at the club it seems he has struggled for form and goals. While that first season it seemed Villa had found a real gem of a player, since then it does seem that Benteke has struggled to recapture that form. In the game against Spurs this year Benteke looked to be back to his better form, however a moment of frustration led to a red card and Villa not only lost their talisman again, but ultimately lost the game. Sherwood worked some impressive man-management and motivation with Emmanuel Adebayor last season at Spurs, the hope is he can galvanise the under-performing Benteke and bring out his dominance and goals. This will be the key for Villa’s season ending in relegation or survival.

You predicted a 15th place finish for Villa in the summer. Are you sticking with that? And do you think Tim Sherwood is the right man to keep the team in the Premier League?

There is a chance that Villa can finish 15th, yet there is also a chance they could finish 18th or lower. The season is right now on the precipice of doom and failure or moving towards a positive end. It will not be easy. As much as my heart hopes Sherwood will bring energy and positivity to the team my head tells me this is an extremely risky appointment, not just because of his inexperience but because of his personality. Whereas Tom Fox thinks this approach will bring a positive turn in results I can’t help but think it will be his attitude and approach which may cause more problems for Villa. We needed a manager like Moyes, Allardyce or Pulis and as ‘old school’ as that sounds Sherwood is nothing but a major risk to Villa’s future. Had he won the Stoke game I think this may have galvanised the team and fans, unfortunately this first league loss may only seek to compound the feel of defeat in the club. As much as I want a positive future for Villa, I cant help but think Sherwod isn’t the man to bring this. I have been proven wrong in the past, and really hope this is the case this time.