In the closest Premier League in recent memory, one team has been cast adrift - Aston Villa and if their fortunes are to change, something drastic needs to happen.
The stats do not favour the west Midlands club either. As you may have heard, no Premier League team has ever managed to survive the drop when they have been on seven or fewer points at Christmas.
They are also joint-bottom (with Stoke) in terms of goals scored and have conceded the third most goals alongside Newcastle. Furthermore, their squad undertook a major overhaul over the summer and arguably lost their best player Christian Benteke, to Liverpool which only added to their struggles. Combined, these all appear to point to an inevitable relegation from the league.
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On the other hand, they still possess a glimmer of hope to miraculously beat the drop in the form of Rudy Gestede.
One of Tim Sherwood’s 13 new faces over the summer, Gestede arrived off the back of a prolific scoring campaign in the Championship.
The 6 ft. 4 striker netted 19 times for Blackburn last season but has only managed three so far for the Villans. More specifically, Gestede headed nine of those 19 goals last season as Blackburn utilised the target man’s strengths to dominate opposing centre backs.
Blackburn didn’t play Gestede as a lone forward either. Paired alongside Jordan Rhodes, the dynamic duo combined for 40 of Blackburn’s 65 goals (61.5%) which saw them finish ninth and presumably would have been even higher if the rest of the team had been pulling their weight.
As a result, Villa need to learn from Blackburn’s style of play to get the most out of their £6 million summer signing.
Part of what allows a centre forward to do his job properly is the support of his teammates and, if possible, a second danger man to make runs and stretch the back four.
Villa, on the other hand, prefer to play the ball through the midfield and also lack other options in his position. Their top goal scorer this season, Jordan Ayew, would also benefit from a successful strike partnership and a ball-winning centre forward to supply him with chances.
New coach Remi Garde could, therefore, field a resurgent 4-4-2, perhaps in a diamond, rather than his preferred 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1 to ensure that his two most productive attacking players can both be on the pitch without being overrun in midfield.
Overall, it doesn’t take a genius to see that Villa need to start scoring and soon. They spent money in the summer bringing in big names and not playing to their strengths is costing the team more than points. Of course, they have pressing defensive issues that also need addressing but a few goals will get the Holte End cheering again and raise everyone’s confidence heading into the new year.