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Can Aston Villa engineer the latest great escape?


I think we can all agree, it’s been a nightmare season on and off the pitch for Aston Villa.

In the aftermath of their second win of the season against Crystal Palace on Tuesday the board announced the appointment of new chairman, Steve Hollis. Once again, highlighting the shambles that is taking place behind the scenes at Villa Park.

Relatively unknown Hollis takes over a club in turmoil. The team find themselves bottom of the Premier League, eight points from safety and with an owner who refuses to speak to the media, which has created a bitter relationship between the club and its supporters.

The new chairman took over the reins on Thursday and immediately told the media that the club needed “shaking up,” but spending money on players wasn’t the solution. What is the solution then, Steve? Because the current crop of players are not good enough to keep the side in the league.

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It’s emerged Randy Lerner, still the owner of the football club, doesn’t want to take the blame for the failures that have occurred. Instead he’s appointed a puppet to take the criticism. A lack of commitment from Lerner and not spending the right money on the right player is the main reason why Villa are in this position, not only this year but for the last five seasons. The club’s been sliding down the table, selling the best players and replacing them with below par or past their prime standard. The result is relegation battle after relegation battle.

Hollis will work with chief executive Tom Fox on a day to day basis trying to pick up the pieces of a club who he himself described as “broken.” So, where do they begin?

Firstly, scrap the recruitment system that gives Lerner the final say on all transfers and give Remi Garde full control of player acquisition.

Secondly, sell or release the dead weight that currently hold a place in the first team squad. Joe Cole recently move to League 1 Coventry City on a free. So players such as Kieran Richardson, Joe Bennett, Alan Hutton, Charles N’Zogbia and Gabby Agbonlahor need to leave to free funds so we can afford players on a free or on loan. It amazes me that these players are still at the club, never mind in the Premier League.

Villa have been accused of playing sideways instead attacking forward, but it’s astounding how both Richardson and Hutton are given so much time and space by the opposition that their teammates have no choice but to pass the ball to them. This results in giving the ball away, booting the ball out for a goal kick or a poor quality cross that barely beats the first man. They equally bring poor decision making and untimely tackles that result in unnecessary pressure on the defense. These unwanted players still find themselves in the starting eleven but offer absolutely nothing to the team, and a new lease of life is needed to boost spirits in the players and our supporters.

Thirdly, replace goalkeeper Brad Guzan with Mark Bunn and continue to play Libor Kozak in attack. Make these changes and Villa could see a change in their misfortunes. Bunn looked steady against Wycombe in the cup and the big Czech looked a handful on Tuesday night.

After the 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace, Villa fans look at the eight-point gap between themselves and Swansea with optimism instead of dread. In my opinion, Villa need to win all nine remaining home games to secure the great escape. It’s not an impossible act. Leicester City were in a similar position last year, and a strong finish to the season saw them to safety.

Remi Garde needs to stick with the same starting XI that grounded out the victory against Crystal Palace. For the first time this season, there was passion and belief from the players that could spark a run of form that could end in survival. A win changes everything, and Villa will go into Saturday’s clash with Leicester full of confidence.

Is this the beginning of the greatest ever escape? Surely we can dream.

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