Having joined Aston Villa on the day the Villans crashed to a lacklustre 3-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, which confirmed the club's start to the 2015/16 season was their worst in a long and distinguished 127-year history, new manager Remi Garde could be forgiven for thinking that his immediate prospects at the club look about as bleak as Tim Sherwood's scorched CV.
However, the 49-year-old who is taking the reigns at just his second club having only previously managed the French heavyweights Lyon- has some reason to be optimistic at his new club.
1. Villa dug deep against Tottenham
Tottenham, unbeaten in the league since the opening game of the season, are a side in form, and came into this match fresh from rolling Bournemouth over in a dominant 5-1 victory. And, having opened the scoring within the first 3 minutes of this match, Villa could have been on the end of a thrashing.
But after conceding a second. the introduction of Rudy Gestede revitalised the Villains, and the away side almost snaatched a point when Hugo Lloris rashly rushed off his line. The overall performance was poor, but it showed characters: frequently the most drawn upon characteristic in a relegation dogfight.
2. He has options up front
Sides at the bottom of the table frequently struggle for goals, and many teams with half-decent defences have endured the dreaded drop because of an inability to either field or recruit a consistent goal-scorer.
However Villa have players who can hit the target. True, Gabby Agbonlahor- with his 8 eight touches (two of which were for the kick-offs)- was abysmal, but the aforementioned Gestede looked lively, as did the talented Scott Sinclair out on the left wing. Jordan Ayew meanwhile capped a bright performance with a goal after coming on in the first half.
3. Aston Villa are a big club
Aston Villa are not a newly promoted outfit or a suddenly cash rich club with more financial backing than history: they are one of only eight teams to have been in the Premier League since its inception, and reached an FA Cup final last season. They are, essentially, a sleeping giant.
This is no doubt part of what attracted a talented young manager such as Garde to the club. If he can survive the perils of a dogfight this season, Garde can begin building and growing the club, and ultimately pointing them back in the direction of the top half of the table, where only a few years ago Villa found themselves regularly, competing for European football.
4. Jack Grealish can be a fantastic player
It is very rare that outstanding players such as Jack Grealish- still only 20-years-old and yet a more than competent performer in one of the world's most difficult leagues- find themselves suffering the ignominy of relegation. True, he has been underperforming, but if Garde can revitalise his displays Villa be able to pick up some points quickly.
Garde has a proven track record of working with and developing young players at Lyon, and Grealish must surely be relishing the opportunity of working with a new manager, after reportedly suffering something of a fallout with previous manager Tim Sherwood after he was forced to undergo a mini summer training camp after electing to play for England rather than the Republic of Ireland.
5. He is not Tim Sherwood
Without wishing to be drawn into the Tim Sherwood debate- things had undoubtedly grown toxic at the club under his stewardship. Backed heavily in the press by some and castigated mercilessly by others, Sherwood ultimately appeared too willing to cave in and blame his board of directors rather than working with the players at his disposal, and eventually pushed onto his own sword.
In his arrival statement, Villa chairman Randy Lerner promised supporters that his new manager would “harvest talent rather than buckle under pressure and criticism”. Garde appears to be a very cool customer, and some of the summer signings Sherwood was apparently so unsure of may well appeal to him.