How do you solve a problem like Villa?

 

Aston Villa is a club in crisis. They were beaten by Bradford City in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final last Tuesday and are facing the very real prospect of being relegated, but why are they in the mess they’re in? It’s quite simple – they punched above their weight for too long and are now feeling the consequences of selling the players that made them good back when Martin O’Neill was manager.

Ashley Young, James Milner and Gareth Barry arguably played their best football whilst at Villa, but the rumoured £50 million that the Midlands club got for all three players has been spent, but not much good has come from the players brought in. Darren Bent is a prime example, Villa splashed out £24 million on the striker but only have 20 something goals to show for it.

After Martin O’Neill left the club, Gerard Houllier was brought in and led them to 9th place in the Premier League. Despite the good campaign, the Frenchman left the club and Alex McLeish was brought in to replace him.

The Scotsman was never going to be well liked at Villa unless he could lead the team back to the success they had experienced under Martin O’Neill. The reason for the Villa fans disliking McLeish was simple, he was the Birmingham City manager in the previous season. Eyebrows are usually raised when a player moves between two rival teams, famous examples include Ashley Cole from Arsenal to Chelsea and William Galls playing for Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham. However, a manager moving between rival teams is looked down upon even more, Harry Redknapp being the most high profile manager to ‘cross the line’ and take charge of rivals teams.

Many were surprised when McLeish took the Villa job and it seemed as if he took the first job offer that came his way after leading Birmingham to relegation. It was no surprise that the Villa fans reacted in the way they did and some of their behaviour towards McLeish was similar to that of Blackburn Rovers fans when Steve Kean was manager.

McLeish didn’t last long at Aston Villa, only 11 months in fact. The style of play he used didn’t go down well with the fans or the board and he was sacked. Some might argue that he should have been given another year in charge though.

His sacking led to the club appointing their fourth manager in 3 years, Paul Lambert.You just have to look at the players that left Aston Villa in the summer as well as the players that were brought in to see why the club has struggled this season. Experienced defenders James Collins and Carlos Cuellar both left, but no central defenders with Premier League experience were brought in. Whilst Paul Lambert keeps denying that thereason for his team’s poor season is down to the low average age of his players, there is no other feasibleexplanation.

Although it would be a great loss to the Premier League if Aston Villa were to be relegated, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise. It would also put memories of three 6th place finishes in row firmly in the past.

Thomas Baxter @ThomasBaxter27