Aston Villa fell to yet another defeat at home to Arsenal on Sunday and remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League table, favourites (in the opinion of many) to go down.
The chances are an established Premier League side that finds itself in or around the drop zone will change manager at some point during the season. Villa, like Sunderland, acted early and appointed Remi Garde at the beginning of November, a week after cutting Tim Sherwood loose.
The hope is a new manager will bring an immediate turnaround in results. This was certainly the case last season when Villa again decided to make a change, in mid-February, sacking Paul Lambert in favour of Sherwood.
Obviously, there is (or should be) an art in choosing a new manager. The right man for the task at hand. There is also a knack to knowing when to pull the plug; when to jettison the incumbent manager and when to parade the saviour-to-be.
Last season Villa chief executive Tom Fox got it just right, bringing Sherwood in to provide a shock to the heart and kick-start the Villans’ season. This time around however, it seems his timing may have been a little off. Remi Garde’s first game was a home match against Manchester City, followed by Everton (A), Watford (H), Southampton (A) and Arsenal (H). A run of five games that has yielded just two points, with arguably only one fixture considered ‘winnable’. Aston Villa are flatlining. And this time it seems that someone forgot to plug in the defibrillator.
The point against Southampton was lauded, which is understandable when you consider Villa’s last league visit to St Mary’s was a 6-1 defeat in the middle of Sherwood’s ‘renaissance’. The reality is though, a point is no longer good enough in a game where Villa led, against a team outside of the established top six. It’s only December but it is already too late for Villa to nick a ‘good away point’ here and there.
Villa need a huge turnaround, in performances and results, but have already played their trump card, the same trump card they played last February, which ultimately kept them up – a change of manager.
Would Sherwood not have been able to squeeze two points out of this Villa side over the same five games? Yes, they may well have lost against City, but who’s to say Sherwood would not have been able to yield something from the Watford game?
Had Villa pulled the trigger now, Garde’s first five league games would have been Newcastle (A), West Ham (H), Norwich (A), Sunderland (A) and Crystal Palace (H). All winnable in normal circumstances but even more so with the boost in performances that is expected when a new manager comes in. As well as the fixture list, there would be no international break getting in the way.
Villa are unlikely to make a change again this season. Garde was the man chosen and it is likely he will be given the chance to see it out, however disastrously it might end. Has the honeymoon period come and gone with nothing to show for it?
Did Villa get their timing wrong?
Robb Graham, Pundit Arena