Tim Sherwood is still relatively new to management. While he may not have much experience and some people question his tactics, I think the way he has dealt with the players this summer has been great.
There are three players in particular who many assumed would be leaving Aston Villa Football Club during this transfer window: Brad Guzan, Carles Gil and Libor Kozák. Sherwood has handled the debate sensitively and openly confirmed that they would all play a crucial part in next season’s campaign. The confidence this will give the players is invaluable and they will want to prove themselves to the manager and the fans, showing that Sherwood has made the right decision to opt for them.
With a flurry of new, exciting signings, it’s still difficult to predict which eleven names will be on that first team sheet against AFC Bournemouth. Guzan, Gil and Kozák can expect to be seriously considered, something which looked highly unlikely just a matter of months ago.
Since securing the number one spot from Given a few seasons ago, Guzan went on to make more than one hundred consecutive Premier League appearances.
That first season, he played a massive role in keeping us up. Without his saves and Benteke’s goals we would have been in serious trouble.
The next season he was similarly good, excelling at reaction stops and making athletic saves.
Last season, however, like many players do, he had a noticeable dip in form. He made a number of mistakes, against Everton, for example, and most memorably against Manchester City. The City gaffe would ultimately cost him his place for the rest of the season.
Many thought his days were numbered but since then he has cemented his place as his country’s first choice keeper and Shay Given has left Aston Villa. Sherwood did initially seem to be looking around for possible alternatives and brought veteran keeper Mark Bunn in on a free. Nevertheless, the manager eventually revealed that the American would be restored between the sticks for the start of the season. Guzan will want to make up for his mistakes last season and will desperately want to put in a good shift for the team. You can’t deny his passion so let’s just hope he can get back to the form we got used to.
When the diminutive Spaniard first appeared on the scene everyone was so excited. This was the player who was going to dig the Villans out of trouble. After his spritely cameo against Liverpool on his debut, his wonder goal against Bournemouth in the FA cup and his skillfull assist against Chelsea, all our minds were made up: he really could save us.
However, when Sherwood arrived Gil’s first team chances became very limited. At the time many of us became slightly worried that the manager was overlooking a fantastic player but couldn’t complain too much as we were getting the requisite results.
Since then, Sherwood has revealed why Gil was not getting picked. Understandably, the manager didn’t think Gil was suitable for a relegation dog fight. His skill and trickery are valuable when the team has the ball and the players are attacking but his defensive ability may not all be there.
This summer, Sherwood has declared that Gil will be an important player in 2015-16, which is great news for fans and the player alike. The confidence he must have after an impressive pre-season should stand him in good stead for August and beyond.
Before his injury, I couldn’t work Libor Kozák out; I genuinely thought he was not up to much. Having said that, he proved on several occasions that he was good for a goal – and important goals at that: the winner against Norwich, the pressure reliever against Cardiff, two teams fighting for survival with us, and a great header in the bizarre but thrilling 3-2 victory over Southampton. He definitely was not in Benteke’s league but he had his qualities so it was a shame when Clark broke his leg in training.
The injury ruled him out of last season entirely and there are many, including Kozák himself, who would have questioned whether he would ever put the Villa shirt on again.
However, this pre-season he has been banging them in and, with the departure of Benteke, he will be an important player for us. Sherwood has shown that the Czech giant is very much in his plans and the striker will want to prove him right. Good luck to Libor Kozák. Here’s hoping he can stay injury-free and bag a few goals that mean the upcoming season is our best in years.
Sherwood’s handling of these players whose futures were uncertain has been great. Add to that the excitement of many new signings and I cannot wait for the Premier League to start. UTV!