The Premier League season is only in week nine, but Aston Villa should be seriously worried about the threat of relegation.
Let me admit my bias right off the bat. I really dislike Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood. I don’t like his tactics and I detest his personality. His time at Spurs was borderline unbearable. This article isn’t about that though. It’s about why upon close examination, Aston Villa appears doomed for relegation.
Medium size clubs like Aston Villa that start the season in the drop zone typically owe it to woeful back lines. It’s very concerning for Villa that they can’t say this at all. Their individual defensive performances have been terrific on the year. In fact, two of their back four, Micah Richards and Jordan Amavi, rate highly enough to be featured on Whoscored.com’s team of the year to date.
The solid performance of the defense should, perhaps counterintuitively, trouble Aston Villa fans. There isn’t much room for improvement in the back four. Their path to safety from relegation won’t be as simple as hiring a Tony Pulis type manager to solidify the back line. Instead, they must find a way to manufacture offense.
The quest for goals is much more complicated than shoring up a porous defense. The latter can be done with drill and discipline. The former generally requires a drastic tactical change or talent influx.
Achieving either of those things usually takes significant investment both in terms of time and money. Aston Villa ownership doesn’t seem willing to spend the cash and time is running out.
Sherwood’s men have only managed a meager seven goals thus far and it’s difficult to see where the help may come from. The only attacking players that have been reasonably effective are Rudy Gestede and Jack Grealish.
Don’t forget that Gestede is in his first full Premier League season and Grealish is only 20-years old. It’s highly unlikely they can maintain their performance for an entire season without some dips in form.
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The candidates for help might be even more uncertain. You must either believe that Gabriel Agbonlahor will play the season of his life or you must further place hope in Villa’s youth. The latter is unlikely, but is still the more possible of the two.
The youth in question are young forwards Jordan Ayew and Adama Traore. Stop me if you’ve read this before, but both of these men are in the first Premier League seasons. Counting on such youth and inexperience to supply enough goals to climb out of the relegation zone should be keeping Aston Villa fans up at night. Unfortunately for their faithful, it’s their only real hope.
Aston Villa isn’t certain to be relegated, but their path to improvement lies in bringing their comatose attack back to life. This makes their path to safety much more treacherous than competitors who simply need to bring discipline to defense.