Aston Villa should be backing Tim Sherwood, not preparing to sack him

Tim Sherwood Press Conference 12/02/2014

The Villa boss reportedly needs a win against either Chelsea or Swansea City over the next two weeks to avoid the sack.

Only a couple of months ago Tim Sherwood was widely seen as the man to guide Aston Villa back to the top half of the Premier League.

Originally replacing Paul Lambert at the helm in February with the club marred in the drop zone and on a 10-game winless streak, the former Tottenham Hotspur head coach soon won over the initial doubters by transforming a team that had scored just 12 goals in 25 league matches into a vibrant, attacking unit.

A subsequent run of five wins in 13 matches over the rest of the campaign proved enough to retain the club’s top-flight status for another season, while statement-making victories over local rivals West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool also secured a first FA Cup final appearance since 2000.

The season ended on a damp squib with a 6-1 thrashing at Southampton, 1-0 home defeat to already-relegated Burnley and 4-0 loss to Arsenal at Wembley but, having completely changed the atmosphere around Villa Park with his refreshing approach, the future seemed bright.

Fast forward to this term, though, and the mood among supporters is fast returning to the state of despair reached during the final stages of lambert’s reign.

Without a top-flight victory since the 1-0 opening day win at Bournemouth, Villa sit in 18th-place in the table with just four points from their eight games and, with a tough-looking run of fixtures coming up against Chelsea, Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Everton, respectively, they could be in even more trouble come the start of the festive period.

Owner Randy Lerner and CEO Tom Fox are reportedly already considering Sherwood’s position, and according to the likes of the Daily Mirror, he now needs a win at either Chelsea this coming weekend or from the following home clash with Swansea to avoid the sack.

Plenty of fans have welcomed that news, and understandably so given the team’s current predicament, but there is without doubt an argument to make that getting rid of him at this stage would be severely premature.

Firstly, to demand a win from either of the upcoming games is frankly absurd, regardless of Chelsea or Swansea’s current form, but, more significantly, after losing both Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph in the summer, as well as the on-loan Tom Cleverley, it should really come as no surprise that the club find themselves in the bottom three in early October.

Granted, Sherwood was able to bring in 12 new players for a combined total of around £54 million but, with several of them youngsters from abroad – reportedly identified under the club’s new analytical approach, the first few months of the season were always going to be a struggle to get the team gelling together like the same cohesive side of last term’s run-in.

The likes Jordan Amavi, Jordan Ayew, Idrissa Gana and Jordan Veretout are all hugely promising talents, but take players of Benteke and Delph’s ability out of any mid-table side and you can guarantee that they will not fare much better than Villa at the moment.

 Under Sherwood SeasonGoals GAMETotal Shots GAMEScoring V Shooting AccuracyOpp Goals GAMEOpp Total Shots GAMETotal Passes GAMEPassing AccuracyPossession PercentageAppearances
Aston Villa 2014-2015 1.46 12.31 12% 1.77 11.08 442.54 78% 52% 13
Aston Villa 2015-2016 1 11.38 9% 1.63 13.38 425.63 80% 50% 8

That is not to stay that Sherwood does not deserve some blame for their poor start – he most certainly does.

Tactical miscues, bad line-up decisions and questionable substitutions have all costs the team points so far this season but, having had just six months of managerial experience at Tottenham previously, the Villa board knew that was exactly what they were getting back in February.

Sherwood is a relatively young manager who openly acknowledges that he is still learning on the job and, having been well aware of that prior to appointing him, sacking him now would undoubtedly say more about Lerner and Fox’s own ineptitude than his coaching skills.

In addition, for all the talk about how much backing he received in the transfer window, Villa were actually among the Premier League’s lowest net spenders over the summer, forking over just £9.3 million, and, given that they finished in 17th-place last season, that certainly leads to questions about ownership’s ambition.

If a capable replacement was lined up then their reported two-game threat might be more understandable but the likeliest option is currently believed to be Brendan Rodgers – a man who was run out of Liverpool because he failed to replace his two best players, could not settle on his first-choice XI, did not know how to train a defence and kept shifting from one tactical approach to another.

Those should all sound like very familiar problems to the claret and blue faithful and, while plenty have been quick to back the former Liverpool boss for the job, the simple fact is that he likely will not be able to solve any of Villa’s current issues.

Make no mistake, Sherwood should be under a certain degree of pressure given the manner in which his side have lost some of their games this season but, considering how difficult the coming fixtures will be, there is absolutely no sense in judging his position based on the next two results.

Even if they suffer back-to-back defeats, a set of positive performances should still leave the club's hierarchy encouraged and, after a two-week international break to sort his tactics out and get Jack Grealish and Adama Traore up to full fitness, there is every reason to believe that he can deliver that.

In the end, Sherwood may well end up proving a victim of circumstance at Villa but, after the board endured Lambert for two-and-half seasons, giving him a combined total of just 23 league games in charge amid a full-scale squad overhaul seems more than careless.

One need only look at Martin O'Neill's first season in charge, when the club finished in 11th-place after being around the drop zone in December, to see how a turnaround is possible and, while Sherwood might not be O'Neill, there are certainly signs of a good manager there.

It is a telling fact that he clearly still has the support of the players at this point and, if the club really wants to be back fighting for a European spot, then taking the Sunderland approach of continually transitioning from one boss to another is simply not the right way to go about things.

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