After such a promising start to his Aston Villa career, most fans expected Carles Gil to become a core contributor during the club’s battle to avoid the drop, but the arrival of Tim Sherwood has instead seen the Spanish midfielder’s fortunes take a different turn.
Upon signing from Valencia in the winter transfer window for around £3.25 million, Gil made an immediate impact during his first few weeks at Villa, netting a spectacular full debut goal in the 2-1 FA Cup win over Bournemouth following a promising cameo against Liverpool, before setting up Jores Okore with a pinpoint cross in the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea to help end the club’s 11-hour goal drought.
While the team would lose each of his first four top-flight outings, leading to Lambert’s sacking, his creative contributions were still an obvious bright spot, and led most to believe that he was set to establish himself as one of the first names on the teamsheet moving forward.
However, new manager Sherwood hasn’t been so convinced and, after lasting less than an hour of his first game in charge against Stoke, the former Under-21 international has been forced to sit on the bench for the past three matches, with a two-minute run out in the weekend’s 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion his lone contribution since.
With fellow new signing Scott Sinclair and the revived Charles N’Zogbia both preferred, Gil now finds himself in a battle for first-team opportunities and challenged to prove himself on the training pitch, Sherwood telling the Telegraph: "It’s up to Carles to prove on the training field he warrants a place. It's my choice who plays and doesn't.
“Everyone is up for selection and has a chance to play until the end of the season. Everyone has to remember I am picking a team to win a game but it's nothing personal.
We’re assessing everyone to see what we need to do.
"I think Aston Villa are more capable of challenging towards the top half but we’re not in that situation. Who is best equipped to get out of a relegation battle? That is something I am still trying to decide."
Nevertheless, looking at the stats from Gil, Sinclair and N’Zogbia so far this season, it’s clear that the promising Spaniard is well ahead of his teammates when it comes to helping out in the attacking third.
|2014-15 Premier League||Position||Team||Goals||Assists||Total Key Passes MINS||Passing Accuracy||Total Crosses MINS||Crossing Accuracy||Total Dribbles MINS||Dribble Success||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Carles Gil||MF||Aston Villa||0||1||59.83||89%||10.88||15%||13.81||69%||5||359|
|Charles N'Zogbia||MF||Aston Villa||0||1||80.27||81%||44.15||20%||31.54||31%||18||883|
|Scott Sinclair||MF||Aston Villa / Man City||1||0||258||81%||64.5||0%||36.86||30%||7||258|
While Gil is still to opening his scoring account in the Premier League, the Valencia product creates more chances per minute than both N'Zogbia and Sinclair, while also proving the more accurate passer and recording far more crosses and dribbles.
That in mind, the reasons for his absence from the line-up become even harder to understand but, with consecutive wins now on the board, it's difficult to take aim at Sherwood, or criticise him for the frankness which was so lacking during Lambert's tenure.
Perhaps the former Tottenham Hotspur boss just finds Gil too lightweight to fit in the 4-4-2 formation he's trotted out in recent games but, given Villa's considerable struggles in front of goal this season, one would think there'd be an emphasis on getting the best attacking talent on the pitch, regardless.
With a difficult trip to Sunderland coming this weekend, it's tough to imagine the creative midfielder being brought back into the side at the Stadium of Light but, if Sherwood's side fail to produce the goods on the afternoon, then he just might find himself on the receiving end of some flack for ignoring one of the team's few difference-makers.