The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Aston Villa’s Week as Relegation Battle Intensifies



Tim Sherwood has undoubtedly brought more excitement and enthusiasm to Villa, and the club’s attacking play has generally improved dramatically since his arrival. However, his tactical naivety is clear on occasion, something which is a big problem while the club battle for survival. In the defeat to Swansea in the last home game he failed to pack the midfield, resulting in Villa being overrun from the first whistle.

Against Rangers it was Chris Ramsay who turned the game on its head after Villa’s first-half dominance. Sherwood’s assistant from his time at Spurs reshuffled his pack to go to three at the back and made two substitutions early in the second half when it became clear things weren’t any better for the away side.

In contrast, Sherwood waited until there were just 20 minutes left – with QPR having pulled level three minutes after Ramsay’s double change and arguably been the more threatening side from then on – to make his first change. Villa need him to be proactive, not merely reactive.

Carles Gil’s time under Sherwood went from bad to worse this week. Although rumours of a bust-up and his storming out of the club have been shown to be false – the Spaniard was at Villa Park on Tuesday for the game – he continues to be ignored and the snub worsened with him now not even making the bench.

How Sherwood thinks our squad is good enough to leave him out entirely is beyond me. There is a danger in placing too much value on a player who has only started four league games for the club, but he undoubtedly showed enough during his spells on the pitch to indicate that he is a player who could contribute massively during the crucial run-in.




QPR’s goals were dreadful ones to concede. Matt Phillips’ opener was shocking – Kieran Richardson was beaten easily down Rangers’ right flank and Villa’s failure to clear the ball was abysmal. Forget Eric Cantona’s kung-fu kick, forget Luis Suarez’s bite(s), Leandro Bacuna’s ‘clearing’ header back into the heart of his own penalty area was possibly the worst thing I have ever seen in football.

QPR’s second came about from an atrocious lack of marking, and a baffling lack of a man on the back post from the corner who would have been perfectly placed to stop Clint Hill’s header – instead we had Kieron Richardson marking five square yards of thin air.

Richardson was dreadful defensively all night, and his failure for the umpteenth time in Tuesday’s 90 minutes to contain Phillips, even when ‘helped’ by Carlos Sanchez, allowed QPR to go 2-3 up. Bacuna and Richardson as a full-back pairing is the stuff of nightmares. You can understand Bacuna being picked to attack QPR’s weak left-hand side but any advantages he might have going forward are generally nullified by his attempts at defending.

Villa need Alan Hutton back desperately and, though he’s hardly the best left-back in the world, the return of Aly Cissokho will also be a welcome relief. This season has long since become merely a case of getting through and avoiding the disaster of relegation. For this to happen, they and Sherwood must tighten up the defence, and Benteke must remain in form and be given the service he needs (cc: Carles Gil).

With no home games until May and trips to Tottenham and Manchester City either side of the day out at Wembley, we should perhaps brace ourselves for Villa’s situation being considerably worse by the time we enter the last month of the season. Home form will be key, and it’s going to be uncomfortably tight.

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  1. Fragility at the back is a major problem, being such a small squad we don’t have choices. The Gil situation doesn’t look clever. He’s undoubtedly being overlooked for whatever reason . we can’t afford to behave like this. During the PL regime this sort of bomb squad mentality took us plummeting downwards.

    Spurs will rip through a light weight defence, Sherwood will need to show his tactical awareness, which as Spurs ex manager , he should have!

  2. totally agree about the comments on grealish, nothing in the section of the north stand that I sat in which was anything but appreciative. However he is very slight and was knocked off the ball too easily. Gil may or may not have stormed out after being overlooked but if Sinclair is out we need someone in that free roving wing play role, and I doubt Grealish is yet strong enough to do it. He is still a teenager and looks it.

    However the key issue is ‘tightening up the defence’ – conceding two goals in the second half and poor goals at that is the big issue. Kane etc will prove a hard test on Saturday. I know two players only trained four times in 2 months according to Sherwood, but it is not the first time that Richardson and Sanchez have made serious mistakes. Arsenal all over again. I guess villa had to play wing backs to try to win the game, but Richardson alarms me and Bacuna will never be a full back of any kind. Put him in midfield and drop the Cleverley-N’Zogbia non event for me. Certainly if Hutton is not fit, stick with Lowton who has done OK when he has been chosen recently – either at right or left back.

    its the defence that will be crucial. We have to get points away from home starting with Spurs on Saturday. Tuesday we were far too fragile at the back. At least Sherwood realizes this.

    Trevor Fisher.

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