With eight matches left to secure Premier League survival and an FA Cup semi-final ahead, here are three changes the Villa boss should consider making.
Start Carles Gil
Charles N’Zogbia and Scott Sinclair have both impressed during Villa’s recent mini revival but one can’t help but feel that Gil could add even more with a starting spot on the flank.
While his initial introduction couldn’t help turn around the club’s dismal league form, the Spanish maestro still showed more than enough during his first month in England to suggest that he could prove a major difference-maker in their bid to avoid the drop.
Nevertheless, he lasted just 58 minutes into Tim Sherwood’s first game in charge against Stoke before being hauled off and hasn’t been back in the starting XI since, earing just a one-minute cameo in the 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final win over West Brom over the past five matches.
Perhaps Sherwood just finds Gil too lightweight for his favoured 4-4-2 formation but, with Villa facing some tough fixtures in their survival battle, getting a talent like the former Valencia product on the pitch seems like a no-brainer.
At the same time, whatever defensive frailties Gil’s potential introduction might expose could be offset with a change in central midfielder.
Neither Cleverley nor vice-captain Delph offer much protection for the back-four and starting either the recently-dropped Westwood or Sanchez over the former would give the line-up some much-needed balance through the middle ahead of matches against the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
After a dismal first half of the season, the Manchester United loanee has improved since Sherwood’s appointment but his fellow midfielders have been much more consistent and can count themselves unfortunate to have become bit-part contributors following the switch to 4-4-2.
Sanchez, in particular, stood out as the team’s star man during the winter, until a poor performance in the 5-0 loss at Arsenal led to his benching, and the Colombian World Cup star could be the perfect foil for the more adventurous Delph.
Give Jack Grealish more game time
After making his first-team breakthrough at the start of the season, Grealish seemed set for an important role in the since-departed Paul Lambert’s side but the teenage winger has instead been restricted to just 250 minutes of league action.
Nevertheless, he has stepped up whenever given the chance to impress, making game-changing cameos in wins over Leicester and West Brom, and could prove a real weapon off the bench for the final half-hour of games.
Given Sherwood’s noted belief in homegrown talent from his time working at Tottenham, allowing the Birmingham-native more opportunities to showcase his enormous potential during the final run in seems like a both logical and plausible move.