Speaking at his first official news conference as Aston Villa manager, Tim Sherwood has vowed to get the misfiring Christian Benteke back to his best.
Benteke has averaged a disappointing 296 minutes per goal this season, having scored just three times in 19 games since returning in October from a ruptured Achilles which left him sidelined for six months.
The Belgian striker’s poor form saw the since-departed Paul Lambert leave him out of line-up for the past two league defeats against Chelsea and Hull, while he failed to find the back of the net after being brought back into caretaker boss Scott Marshall’s side for the weekend’s 2-1 FA Cup win over Leicester.
Their star man’s struggles have contributed toward Villa’s dismal run of just two top-flight wins in 21 league games, while a record of 12 goals in 25 matches has put them on course to be the Premier League’s lowest-ever scorers.
Now in the relegation zone with 13 fixtures left, Sherwood stresses that his new side are far from a one-team man team, but believes that getting Benteke back to the form which saw him net 44 goals in 67 total appearances during his first two seasons at the club will be vital to survival.
“I remember playing against Christian Benteke as a manager and I know what a handful he can be,” said Sherwood. “We need to get him back to that. If he scores goals, it will breed confidence, and the rest will follow.
“This is certainly not a one-man team but he is going to be an important part of it because we know what he can be.
“We need to try and see if he can re-capture his form, and I’m sure we can get him back firing. He is going to be a very important part of this squad going forward, as are others.
“There are a lot of big names in this squad and none of them want to get relegated, no one does.
“It would hurt them, to drop into the Championship. We have got to make sure that does not happen.”
Having observed Villa from a distance in recent weeks, Sherwood believes that the team have perhaps been too cautious in their approach, and intends to get them “throwing a few punches” themselves moving forward.
“I was only looking from the outside but they have looked a little bit tentative,” he continued. “I think they need to play on the front foot a little bit more.
“You are going to win games, you are going to lose games between now and the end of the season.
“But let’s have a go fighting and start throwing a few punches ourselves. When I came here [Villa Park] as a player, it was a difficult place to come and get results.
“I want to turn this place back into a fortress again, especially between now and the end of the season. It is very, very important that this club stays in the Premier League.”
Sherwood was known for his work on the developmental side at Tottenham Hotspur prior to taking up the manager’s role for the second half of last season, but the former England midfielder is 100 per cent focused on top-flight survival for now.
“I haven’t seen too much of the youth setup here but it’s obviously something I believe in,” he said.
“But that’s the long-term view – don’t expect too many Under-18 players playing on Saturday. It’s about me assessing them. They only play if they’re good enough.
“They’ve got to have the right application and desire to want to be a professional footballer – those lads at Tottenham, they had that.
“That’s the long-term plan for the football club. Of course, we want to bring through our homegrown players.
“But, for the short-term period, we’ve got these cup finals from now until the end of the season and it’s all about winning.”