Aston Villa Football Club is in an incredibly serious situation. Cut adrift at the bottom of the Premier League with just 13 points from 23 games, their Premier League survival hangs in the balance.
Having already disposed of the services of Tim Sherwood, Villa have been propping up the table for some time; including holding the dreaded ‘bottom at Christmas’ title.
However, under new manager Remi Garde there have been gradual signs of improvement. Despite having to wait 11 matches before presiding over his first win, the Frenchman has instilled more discipline into a team who committed defensive suicide on a weekly basis earlier in the season.
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The result of this fresh defensive organisation is five points from their last three league games with only one goal conceded. While it is too early to suggest that Garde has found a remedy for the Claret and Blue’s deluge of problems, he has at least temporarily fixed the leak.
However, as a result of the dismal performances that characterised their early season, Villa need a much more dramatic turnaround in results if they are to usurp the 11 point gap that currently separates them from safety.
This turnaround can only come through goals and lots of them. At present, the clubs striking department consists of Rudy Gestede, Libor Kozak, Jordan Ayew (often deployed out wide) and Gabby Agbonlahor, who has barely featured since Sherwood’s departure.
Ayew’s performances have been relatively consistent throughout the season, but Gestede and Kozak have both been thoroughly disappointing.
Gestede rescued his side with a deflected strike that earned a draw at Villa Park against table-topping Leicester, but has otherwise been lethargic and relatively ineffective in the box despite being renowned for his heading prowess.
Meanwhile, Czech front-man Kozak was rarely seen under Sherwood and with his recent performances as a lone striker it is easy to see why. The former Lazio player looks cumbersome, short on confidence and incredibly slow to react to opportunities.
Faced with this evidence, it seems fairly obvious that if Aston Villa have any hope of retaining their Premier League status, they must invest in a striker.
Whether it be a proven top-flight goal-scorer who is out of favour at his current club or an overseas talent looking to challenge himself in England, Garde must do all he can to attract a number nine to Villa Park.
With Villa’s next two league games away to West Ham and at home to fellow strugglers Norwich, it is do or die for the Birmingham club.
Chairman Randy Lerner must make funds available and Garde must spend them wisely, or a devastating drop to the Championship awaits these former English giants.