Carles Gil the key to stopping Aston Villa's rot

The Spanish no. 10 has started on the bench for Villa's past three games but he should be Tim Sherwood's main man.

Carles Gil’s playmaking skills quickly made him a fan favourite at Aston Villa following his January arrival from Valencia but winning over Tim Sherwood’s affections has so far proved a tougher task.

Seen as a bargain signing at around £3.2 million, Gil was labelled the elusive No. 10 the beleaguered Paul Lambert’s side had been lacking upon joining Villa last term and soon showed his immense promise during his first few weeks in the Midlands.

A stellar full debut saw him net the club’s goal of the season in a 2-1 FA Cup win over Bournemouth, while the skilful Spaniard's first four Premier League starts also earned him rave reviews from the claret and blue faithful.

However, his fortunes changed drastically upon Sherwood’s appointment in mid-February, as the creative midfielder would go on to earn just one more start and a brief cup cameo over the remaining 16 games of the campaign.

Needless to say, the 22-year-old’s lack of action left fans completely baffled at the time, in spite of the team’s upturn in form, and doubts soon surfaced over his future at the club amid rumours of a falling-out with the new manager.

Sherwood later allayed those fears in the summer by explaining that Gil was simply not suited for a relegation battle, but the former Under-21 international’s start to his first full campaign in England has so far proved a stop-start affair.

An ankle injury suffered in the third pre-season friendly at Swindon Town ruled him out for the opening three games and, despite promptly netting another stunner on his first top-flight start of the term at Leicester City, the ex-Valencia man has since begun the past three matches on the bench.

However, with Sherwood now reportedly needing a win against either Chelsea or Swansea City in the next two games to avoid the sack, his job could well rest on whether he is wise enough to bring Gil back into the line-up.

Without a top-flight victory since the narrow 1-0 opening day win at Bournemouth, his side sit in 18th-place in the table with just four points from eight games, and one of the main reasons for that has been their lack of a creativeness in the final third.

 2015-16 Premier League TeamGoalsAssistsKey Passes MINSPassing AccuracyTotal Dribbles MINSDribble AccuracyFinal Third Entries MINSPen Area Entries MINSAppearancesMins Played
Carles Gil Aston Villa 1 0 44.75 86% 11.93 41% 9.42 16.27 4 179
David Silva Man City 1 6 24.65 90% 27.93 53% 10.22 9.74 5 419
Eden Hazard Chelsea 0 2 25.71 87% 15.32 56% 10.75 20.57 8 720
Christian Eriksen Tottenham 2 2 30.17 76% 40.22 42% 11.31 10.34 5 362
Mesut Özil Arsenal 1 4 18.94 89% 39.13 47% 12.49 8.63 7 587
Juan Mata Man Utd 3 3 41.69 90% 74.11 56% 13.9 17.55 8 667
Jack Grealish Aston Villa 1 0 96 85% 15.36 46% 42.67 32 5 384

With fellow playmaker Jack Grealish struggling with injury and inconsistency of late, Sherwood has found himself tinkering with formations and personnel in an effort to kick-start the club’s campaign, but a central role for Gil could be the answer to his problems.

Against Leicester, the diminutive attacker helped Villa grab a 2-0 lead thanks to his skill and drive and it is no coincidence that the club fell to an agonising 3-2 defeat following his 66th-minute withdrawal.

Even when only playing 15 minutes in the 1-0 home defeat to Stoke City earlier this month, he was still able to offer the team a much-needed spark with his vision and neat footwork and, if Sherwood cannot see that, then it could well end up proving his downfall.

Villa now have a tough-looking run of league fixtures coming up against Chelsea, Swansea, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Everton, respectively, and, unless something changes immediately, it is hard to see where the points are going to come from.

Quite simply, Gil needs to be handed the keys to the attack if they want to avoid being in serious trouble come the festive period and, given the flashes of class he has shown when in the side, there is no reason to think he cannot become the claret and blues’ own David Silva-like talisman.

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch