Remi Garde has set his Aston Villa side an ambitious target of at least ten wins to avoid relegation from the Premier League this season.
The Villains are currently bottom of the league and nine points from safety after failing to win since the opening day, with Garde facing an almighty task to recover the deficit and secure his side's status in the top flight.
Their desperate situation is one to have gradually become worse for Villa in recent times. Last year’s FA Cup final appearance aside, the Midlands outfit have been in decline ever since the departure of Martin O'Neill at the start of the 2010/11 season.
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After three successive sixth-placed finishes in the Premier League, O’Neill resigned amidst a dispute with owner Randy Lerner about investment into the club.
For the Northern Irishman, already frustrated that his work had been undermined by the sale of key players, the inevitable depature of James Milner to Manchester City proved to be the final straw. With no assurances that money would be made available for replacements, it was abundantly clear that he and Lerner did not quite share the same vision.
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Villa may look back at this as a turning point.
It was a surprise that O’Neill left so suddenly, but the sub text was equally as intriguing; by design, the club’s trajectory was willingly being halted by its American owner.
Perhaps O'Neill has been vindicated in his stance. In hindsight, what Lerner did during the summer of 2010 was wave the white flag, stating that to maintain their level it would cost a lot of money he simply wasn’t prepared to invest.
In fairness, he hasn't completely washed his hands of the club. Money, although poorly spent, has been made available according to a modest budget, but ambition has not been a word associated with Villa for some time.
The faces have changed over the years, but hamstrung by this inertia it has been a continuation of mediocrity. Most recently, when fans were excited by the development of players such as Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph, the enthusiasm has been sapped by a nagging reality that every star will leave too soon to help Villa out of their rut.
Ultimately, if Garde can’t pull off the great escape and time finally catches up to Villa, the Premier League will be the worse for it.
On the plus side, it may just be the impetus Lerner needs to finally cut his losses and accept a lower valuation of a club he's been trying to sell since 2014.
The exasperating end of Lerner's reign will hopefully bring with it an owner capable of restoring Villa's reputation. Perhaps a step backwards to move forward is the answer.
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