Remi Garde inherits a struggling squad at Aston Villa with the side rock bottom of the Barclays Premier League and confidence low after seven straight defeats. He faces Manchester City in his first game in charge on Sunday and has just days to get them prepare for the visit of the league leaders to Villa Park. Here we look at the key talking points as the new Villa manager has several issues to contend with.
How have the new arrivals fared?
Villa’s flawed recruitment policy saw them bring in 13 players in the summer as Randy Lerner gave the green light for Tim Sherwood to spend after keeping a tight eye on the finances under Paul Lambert.
Ex-boss Sherwood wanted Aaron Lennon and Emmanuel Adebayor but the club opted to go with younger foreign imports with Idrissa Gana, Jordan Amavi and Jordan Ayew arriving.
Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott were the only arrivals to have serious top flight experience, and that has cost Villa dearly in the opening months of the season, with even the former Manchester City pair struggling for form.
Gana, Amavi and Ayew have shown flashes of quality but nothing consistent to suggest they have got to grips in the Barclays Premier League. Adama Traore arrived from Barcelona for £7million — Villa trumping Stoke with a higher offer and bigger wages- – but he has barely been seen, while Liverpool loanee Tiago Ilori has failed to even make an appearance.
Can Remi relay on the old guard?
Not only does Garde need to look at the summer transfers, he must also study whether some who have been at the club for a while can still save Villa.
Gabby Agbonlahor was handed the captaincy for Monday’s 3-1 defeat at Tottenham with Richards suspended but was taken off at halftime having only managed eight touches. That two of those came from the kick-off after Villa had conceded underlined how ineffective the forward was. He has failed to score this season and netted just six times last year as Villa barely beat the drop.
Leandro Bacuna and Ciaran Clark were both handed five-year deals under Sherwood but neither have shown the form this season to suggest they deserve them while Ashley Westwood has struggled to find the form which made him an automatic choice under Lambert. Even the usually dependable Brad Guzan has come in for criticism.
Do Villa need more midfield know-how?
Garde and Villa need an influx of quality in January – players who know the league and who are prepared to dig them out of a widening hole.
Carlos Sanchez and Westwood have battled well but neither have given the midfield protection the side so desperately needs. Jack Grealish cannot be expected to be an enforcer — although he needs to start impacting on games more — and while Carles Gil remains a crowd favorite he must produce to justify the praise.
Villa need midfield players in the mould of Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante at Leicester, who are the unsung heroes of the Foxes’ season. The pair have shielded the back four and provided the steel for Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy to run amok and claim the plaudits.
How can Villa cope without Christian Benteke?
Villa have failed to score enough goals and fill the massive void left by Christian Benteke’s £32.5 million summer switch to Liverpool. Rudy Gestede arrived but has netted just three times in the league, including the winner in their only league victory at Bournemouth on the opening day.
Ayew has not been given a consistent run in the side while Agbonlahor has never been prolific during almost a decade in the first team at Villa. Scott Sinclair is looking to revive his career and has six goals this term — just two in the league — but cannot be relied on to score enough to guarantee Villa survival.
Garde must look to beef up Villa’s attack with serious firepower in January. The club smashed their transfer record to bring Darren Bent in from Sunderland for £24 million in 2011 when it looked like they could go down. He scored nine goals in 16 games to ease their worries and Villa need someone to make a similar impact.
Randy Lerner allowed Sherwood to spend in the summer and with the new TV deal coming into force next season he cannot afford to not splash the cash for Garde in January.
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