Watching the opening pre-season friendly against Fulham last Saturday was a stark reminder of the amount of excess fat still in our squad. Sherwood and his team have done an admirable job so far of attempting to confine the Paul Lambert era to the history books but there is still much work to be done.
Darren Bent, Shay Given, Andreas Weimann, Matthew Lowton, Nicklas Helenius, Antonio Luna, Ron Vlaar, Enda Stevens and Yacouba Sylla have all been sold or released, which has given the wage bill and, more importantly, the fans a boost. The number of departing players is a clear indication that the club is in an important transitional period under the current leadership. While this is progress, there are still players in the squad who do not fit the direction Aston Villa Football Club wishes to go in. From the players we have signed and are looking to sign, it’s evident that Sherwood et al want to emulate the likes of Southampton and ensure that our players have high resale potential.
In general, I like Tim Sherwood’s candid admissions, including the statement that he wants to have as many as seven more players off the books before the season starts. I don’t believe this is because we need to sell before we buy or need to reduce the wage budget: I think it is because they don’t fit in with the new ethos of the club.
So when assessing who these players could be and looking back at our first pre-season game, I wondered whether Koeman would have Joe Cole or Philippe Senderos in his squad. As much as I respect Joe Cole for what he has done in his career at club and international level, it pains me to say that he doesn’t fit in at Aston Villa any more and I would like to see a member of the youth team given his game time. Andre Green has been tipped by The Guardian to make a breakthrough this season, whilst Niall Mason and Ricardo Calder were both given central midfield roles last weekend so perhaps we should be looking at those players.
We now have Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Micah Richards and Nathan Baker as our centre backs so Philippe Senderos is also surplus to requirements, especially when injury meant that he barely played last season.
It is beginning to look like the left back Jordan Amavi will arrive from Nice and it has been widely reported that Sherwood doesn’t rate Aly Cissokho so I expect him to leave as well. If that is the case, Sherwood will need a back-up left back. Kieran Richardson does not represent the future of the club either so he could be moved on and would suit a high level championship team well. Joe Bennett, due to his age, could have another crack at the Premier League, with Lewis Kinsella possibly going out on loan again.
I was surprised to see the much maligned Aleksandar Tonev on the Portuguese pitch last weekend but I don’t see him in our first team, with at least Jack Grealish, Carles Gil and Scott Sinclair ahead of him the pecking order for the wide attacking spots. That brings me to Charles N’Zogbia. He was given a fair crack of the whip last year by Sherwood and didn’t perform so he too could be moved on and a member of the youth team given some time on the pitch.
If we can shift these players and also sign three quality Premier League players, the Villans will be a lean, mean, fighting machine and perhaps even the surprise package of the 2015-16 season.