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Friday, 18 April 2014

Are Aston Villa on the rocks?

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It seems it’s all going on at Aston Villa after the club suspended two senior members of its coaching staff.

Assistant manager Ian Culverhouse and the head of football operations, Gary Karsa, will not be helping Villa’s push for survival for the foreseeable future.

Neither have been in Villa fans’ good books since they arrived for numerous reasons, most notably due to the tactics the team have adopted in recent years and their part in apparently refusing to play some of club’s more promising youngsters.

Much of what has happened remains a mystery with the supporters having to guess what really prompted the move, which has been the way with Villa in recent years. 

It appears both have been suspended because of their behaviour and a complete breakdown of trust with the players and manager, Paul Lambert. What is most surprising is the fact both were brought to the club by Lambert when he signed for Villa back in 2012 having previously been part of his backroom staff at Colchester and Norwich.

The problems at Villa have been a ticking time bomb for at least two years now and something was always going to give. After the side lost their fourth consecutive league game against Palace at the weekend the calls for Lambert’s head began to grow louder and perhaps this latest move has been a last-ditch attempt by the club to restore some faith.

It seems it has been the club rather than the manager that has made the move, which has also been backed by chairman Randy Lerner.

Perhaps the most shocking part in this latest debacle is the fact Lerner actually made a statement because no-one has heard head nor tail from him all season.

CowansWhat happens next, however, is far more important than the behind the scenes nonsense, which is only helping to pull the club closer and closer to a disastrous relegation.

Gordon Cowans’ appointment could not have been more popular because the former European Cup winner pretty much walks on water at Villa Park. He has continued to help bring through quality youth players during his time with the club and when he says “we all need to pull together” he’s one of the few people the fans believe is actually capable of getting the message across to the players.

The appointment of Shay Given is more of strange one, not because anyone thinks he’s not up to the job, but because he has never been given the time of day since Lambert came in. But it says a lot for both former Villa players that they have answered Lambert’s call, despite what may have gone on in the past, and perhaps it’s the start of moving the club in the right direction.

It’s been a long time since the players have looked so disorientated on the pitch and so incapable of either keeping a clean sheet or scoring a goal. No-one knows what’s really going on behind the scenes but it’s clear it’s disrupting any chance the side has of putting a run together to ensure we maintain our Premier League status.

While the club tries to sort out the backroom staff problems the current players and management really need to sort out what’s going on, on the pitch. Rather than playing the same tactics that have failed so badly during the last few games perhaps it’s time to look at a new game plan?

Looking at the team from the stands that would simply mean creating more space, closing players down more quickly and not giving the ball away in dangerous areas at the back.

Some of the more senior players also need to take look at themselves and work out a way of supporting the new-comers, as well as rallying the team for the final five games.

None of that would take a huge amount of work because it would just need the players to pull together and actually fight for their survival. No-one really believes the team doesn’t care that the club is slipping towards relegation but at the same time no-one really believes the team in its current state is capable of stopping the rot.

Whatever Culverhouse and Karsa were doing behind the scenes needs to be forgotten until the final game on against Tottenham on May 11. The only thing that matters until then is picking up at least three more points, which luckily should be enough for survival this year, such has been the standard of the lower teams.

Villa aren’t the only ones in turmoil at the bottom but we’ve been on easily the worst run - and all of the other sides have picked up results against teams they weren’t expected to in recent weeks.

If that situation carries on we’ll go down and if that happens we really will be in trouble.

Every single club below Villa have changed their manager and although that doesn’t always lead to success it should at the very least be enough of a warning to Lambert that he is walking on very thin ice now.

Lambert is clearly still in Lerner’s good books but the chairman he is capable of the odd surprise, like sacking McLeish when it looked like was staying.

But the club has made such a slide under Lambert some fans are actually questioning whether McLeish could have done a better job. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, as they say, so the focus now has to be on Southampton.

The Saints have played really well this year but they are certainly there for the taking. It will be interesting to see how Lambert approaches the game because if he plays 5-3-2 again I think he’ll be lynched.

Other than Benteke it looks like we’ll have most of first team players back so there can’t be any excuses, like there were against about the number of injuries we had when we lost to Fulham, if we just roll over again.

Lambert, Lerner and even chief executive Paul Fawlkner keep pleading with the fans to get behind their team. But what they fail to understand is the fans are fed up with the PR-machine releasing ridiculous statements, press releases and comments to the fans who know when their club is in serious danger of being relegated, which is mostly due to the way the club is being run.

The fans will get behind the team on Saturday, and then the huge following will be behind them again when they travel to Swansea on April 26.

If there is even a glimmer of hope the latest changes have done anything to get the team back to winning ways the players will be the first ones to know about it.

Lambert has bought poorly and Lerner has sold a lot of quality players, which have simply not been replaced, but the side can still produce good performances on their day.

The whole club has at last started to wake up to the predicament it has found itself in and maybe, just maybe, Cowans, Given and the players can save something from this awful season and get a win against Southampton to keep us in the Premier League.

Article by James Fisher


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