The Aston Villa “drop like a stone” project continues apace.
Rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table since October, it looks for all the world like it would take an absolute miracle for them to avoid relegation to the Championship.
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) March 19, 2016
As it stands, it looks likely that their fate will be sealed long before the final day of the season – bringing an end to their 28 consecutive years in England’s top division.
The Telegraph (among others) are this morning reporting that the Aston Villa board have already decided that manager Rémi Garde is not the man they want to lead their promotion push for next season, and could sack him as quickly as within the next 48 hours as they have given up all hope of salvaging anything from this dismal campaign.
21- This is Aston Villa’s worst tally of defeats in a single Premier League campaign. Quagmire.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 19, 2016
The 1-0 defeat at Swansea was seen as the final straw in what has been a disastrous return to England for the former Arsenal defender, departing Aston Villa after less than five months in charge.
Garde’s long term future has been in serious doubt since the closure of the January transfer window, when he was reportedly furious that the club failed to make a single signing to aid their efforts to beat the drop.
The report states that the relationship between Garde and the Aston Villa hierarchy has disintegrated as civil war has engulfed Villa Park – new chairman Steve Hollis has already sacked directors Tom Fox and Hendrik Almstadt while owner Randy Lerner has virtually washed his hands of the whole operation.
Garde was recruited to replace Tim Sherwood in November, but results – while slightly better (that winning two out of twenty matches is considered “better” is damning in itself) – have been nowhere near a level to save them from relegation. The after-effects of a summer which saw them sell star players Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph and fail to adequately replace them are still being felt.
Sky Sports’ Jeff Stelling was particularly scathing in his assessment of Villa’s season on Soccer Saturday this weekend:
Aston Villa are set for an end-of-season review.
Jeff Stelling thinks it’s pointless. He’s done it already… https://t.co/Qdl5kJBj8s
— Soccer Saturday (@SoccerSaturday) March 19, 2016
In terms of who could replace Garde, short term it would make sense to hand control to coach Kevin MacDonald once again. The former Republic of Ireland assistant manager has taken charge of the first team on a caretaker basis on several occasions in the past so handing him the reins until the end of the season would appear to be the most likely option.
Looking more long term, it would appear that the standout candidate, as per the aforementioned report, is ex-Leicester boss Nigel Pearson. Pearson has been out of work since being sacked at the King Power Stadium last summer and would be a universally popular choice among the fanbase as they look to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
Hull manager Steve Bruce has also been linked with the job – though his history with fierce rivals Birmingham City could put Villa off. They tried that once with Alex McLeish and it didn’t work out very well.