A bad season can be a slow, painful death but thankfully for the Aston Villa faithful, it's almost over. The club have been in poor form all season, they've been teetering on the edge for a few years but they are finally looking very likely to be heading to the second tier and they need to wake up soon if they want to right the ship sooner rather than later.
Aston Villa have two key problems and they should be pretty obvious; they can't score goals and they can't stop conceding them. They've managed a paltry 22 goals, the same amount of defeats they have had this season, and have allowed 62 into their own goal at almost a ratio of two per game.
So let's look at their attack first, which has been pretty poor. The joint-top scorers are Jordan Ayew and Rudy Gestede on five each, with the next best on two and only seven other players in the entire squad have scored at all this campaign.
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The problem they have is that the players they brought in whilst Tim Sherwood was still in charge never fit into a mould they could build around. Gestede was a hulking centre-forward in the mould of Christian Benteke but without too many out-and-out wingers around him, he has received nowhere near the service that he would potentially thrive off.
That points to the solution being a more fluid style, maybe with Ayew up top with a combination of Carles Gil, Scott Sinclair, Jack Grealish, Gabby Agbonlahor or Adama Traore around them. However, when you then take a look back at the midfield, you start seeing the gaps and the issues they have playing with that kind of team.
The three most used midfielders for Villa this season are Idrissa Gueye, Ashley Westwood and Jordan Veretout. Gueye has probably been their best player this season, most of the Villa faithful would agree with that, but his occasional lapses of concentration have cost them points and he's too often exposed in a weaker team.
Westwood is a passable player for the Premier League and that's probably being a little kind, he's an attempted jack-of-all-trades that seems to fit nothing for the team. Veretout is a more attacking player and could be more useful behind the front-man, as well as having the ability to play out wide but has been mainly utilised as a box-to-box player.
Those three used in the way they have by both managers has really narrowed Villa's play, especially without natural wingers, which means they have had to rely on full-backs for width. In weaker teams, that will expose the centre-backs if they are caught high up the pitch, which means Villa have struggled to sustain periods of attack in fear that they'll be too short at the back.
That's also with their main pair of defenders going through a torrid season. Micah Richards is caught out of position and rushing into challenges too often, his right-back instincts are not helping him there, while Joleon Lescott's severe lack of pace has helped quicken his sharp decline over the past two seasons.
Managers have also come and gone without much effect but at the same time, their hands were tied and the dye was cast long ago. Sherwood lost two very good players and the spending spree wasn't focused enough on what they needed to improve as a team. Garde was gifted the spare parts and asked to salvage them with no tools, the promise of spending in the winter transfer window being swiftly withdrawn was the absolute final nail in the coffin.
The club need a good clearout in the summer, much like Queens Park Rangers did last season but the worry is that most of their better players will want to leave. Ayew, Gueye and even Jordan Amavi, who was linked with Lyon before joining the Premier League, are likely to be gone and that leaves the side in a bit of bother.
Stick to the young players, keep anyone showing enough heart to compete in the difficult Championship and potentially prepare for a year of consolidation. That will not be music to the ears of the fans in Birmingham but we have seen teams before in similar situations sink quickly and that should be their primary concern in the position they are in.
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