Back where it all began

We face Stoke City this weekend, with the Villans in desperate need of three points. Seven months ago, Tim Sherwood picked his first Villa team against the Potters. Like now, we were on a bad run and needed a win. Of course, we all know what happened: a late defeat got our manager off to the worst start possible. We were in the bottom three then and once again we find ourselves in the relegation zone. The situation is nowhere near as dire as it was all those months ago but Tim Sherwood will know that he can ill afford a prolonged period in the drop zone.

A section of fans are starting to turn on Sherwood. Although I find that ludicrous, he could really do with seeing off the Potters. It was always going to be difficult having so many new players on board, with many playing in the Premier League for the first time. Sherwood talked about how he “rolled the dice” this summer and the squad needs time. Unfortunately, after years of struggle, patience is wearing thin in certain sections of Villa Park.

Settle on a system

I back Tim Sherwood because the man has done far more good than harm since he took over. However, he really needs to settle on his selection and, more so, a system. Injuries have played their part but the constant changing of systems and players is doing us no favours. For all that he bats it off, Tim Sherwood will be feeling pressure and his changing of systems shows that. I understand the necessity to change sometimes depending on the opposition but he seems to be doing it because he is unsure of his best team is and which system best suits his players. This is the time for some conviction. The only way to pick up settled results is by having a settled team.

Jack and Gil

Jack Grealish has been in the news again this week, after finally deciding that his international future lies with England. Villa fans will obviously be wary of this: our track record of keeping hold of players once they enter the England set-up is not great. It may take time but Jack Grealish is definitely good enough to break into the national squad, maybe even in time for the European Championships.

First, he will need a sustained run back in the team at Villa, as injuries have really disrupted his season so far. In my opinion, he needs to be playing through the middle, especially when we aren’t performing at our greatest level. Out on the wing, Grealish will inevitably drift in and out of games. His best position is the ‘number ten’ role and that is where he should be playing, particularly at home when we need to be playing on the front foot.

I believe that Gil has to play as well, as they are simply the most enjoyable players to watch in this Villa squad. With Grealish operating in the middle and Gil coming in from the right, they can dovetail and make us look a lot more dangerous going forward than we have done of late. Playing them both on the wings means they are too far away from each other to link up. With Gana returning and adding some steel to the midfield area, I believe that we can afford to play both of our playmakers.

Sick of soft goals

I for one am sick of seeing us concede soft goals. We have been ‘in’ every game we have played this season but giving away cheap goals is costing us dearly. We are yet to lose by more than one goal this season and with a bit more nous we would have had more points on the board. Bar the West Bromwich Albion game, you could argue that we deserved to take something from every game that we have played this season. Cut out the lapses of concentration and we will get more points because we look like we can and will score goals.

Lescott has made a less than stellar start. I don’t want to get on his back because I think he will be a useful player for us but at the moment I see Ciaran Clark as a better option. The defence has looked less secure without Clark and I would like to see him reinstated.

Westwood or Sanchez please

I like both players but playing Westwood and Sanchez together is not working for us. They both like to do the same job. It is worrying that Sanchez seems to burn out after an hour so I believe Westwood is the better option. Playing them both means that Westwood is forced to operate higher up the pitch than he is comfortable with and we can also sometimes be a little pedestrian. The best facet to Westwood’s game is building attacks from deep with his sharp passing and we lose this when he and Sanchez both start. Both are useful members of the squad but it is my belief that only one can start at a time.

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