“Dogged” and “refreshing” are two words Villa fans would never have used to describe a performance twelve months ago but we have seen Sherwood ringing the changes at Villa Park.
Tim Sherwood has ripped the squad apart. Ashley Westwood was the only person who started against A.F.C. Bournemouth on Saturday who also played in the FA Cup final, illustrating the wider work that Sherwood has been doing at Villa Park. Imagine carrying out a spring clean that you had put off for four years; that’s essentially what Sherwood has done at Villa Park this summer. He has ripped the squad down to its bare bones and rebuilt it ambitiously, with the backing of Randy Lerner. This was something no fan really expected to see given that the club is on the market.
Fifteen players have left Aston Villa Football Club to date this summer, most of them permanently, which is an incredible number. Finding buyers for some of those players cannot have been particularly easy and only a few left on free transfers. Overall, Sherwood was astute in removing the players who did not fit the style of play that he envisages.
With so many players leaving, new signings were essential to avoid another embarrassing season in the Premier League. Sherwood and his team have delivered, signing nine players while still making a small net profit so far this window. Jordan Amavi, Idrissa Gueye, Jordan Veretout, Rudy Gestede and Micah Richards all seem to have settled into the squad rather well and all played their part in a well-fought opening day victory against A.F.C. Bournemouth.
Jordan Ayew’s competitive début against the Cherries was not as successful as some of his team-mates’ but he has the potential to do well.
It is hard to judge José Ángel Crespo, who has not yet played enough football in a Villa shirt, but he could prove to be a useful, and versatile, addition to the squad.
Playing A.F.C. Bournemouth was always going to be a tricky start to the 2015-16 season. Newly-promoted sides are generally buoyed by the successful campaigns that brought them to the Premier League and the high-scoring Cherries, many of whom were grinding out results in the lower leagues not so very long ago, could collectively have been a banana skin, especially in front of a sell-out crowd at the Vitality Stadium.
In the first half, the Villans struggled a little against their free-flowing, organised opponents but Sherwood presumably pulled out the hairdryer at half time and this meant we saw his team playing with greater freedom and creativity from the start of the second half. Gueye had a good shot saved while Veretout pulled the strings throughout the game. Meanwhile, Amavi was a class above the rest, putting defensive priorities ahead of fruitless surging runs. Richards did exactly what fans expected of him, bringing his organisational skills to the side.
Gestede showed desire, beating a few Bournemouth players to the ball and taking his goal well. After coming on as substitute, he hassled Elphick constantly and, not content with scoring the only goal of the game, he could also be seen mucking in at the back to make sure that Sherwood’s new-look side returned to Birmingham with three points.
We are witnessing the early days of a new age and can at least be confident that Tim Sherwood’s players are ones who will give their all. Sherwood may have a long way to go to appease the Villa faithful but it is easy to get excited when you see how productive he has been during his short time at Villa Park.