If Remi Garde wanted to run the rule over a typical Aston Villa performance ahead of taking the reigns, Monday night’s 3-1 defeat at Spurs was a perfect example. The Frenchman bore witness to the dismal worst and modest best of a side totally lacking in ideas. WhoScored.com pick five things the new Villa boss will have seen and will need to improve or harness to save the club from the drop.
1) Restore some confidence
Villa’s performance at White Hart Lane, particularly in the first half, saw the players revert to what has become a worrying norm. Lacking in confidence, the visitors made no attempt to press the ball high up the pitch, starting from a front two of Gabby Agbonlahor and Jack Grealish. Instead, having conceded early on, their two lines of four sat deeper and deeper as the half drew to a drab close. While Tottenham’s second just before the interval wasn’t exactly inevitable – the hosts dropped the tempo after a strong start – it was far from surprising.
2) Out with the old…
Agbonlahor had just six touches when excluding kick-offs after Spurs’ first-half strikes and was rightly withdrawn at the interval. The Villa club captain epitomises everything that is wrong with the side right now. Their loyalty to ‘one of their own’ is bewildering given his woeful goal record over the course of a number of years, and a long career – despite still only being 30 – caught up with him some time ago. His WhoScored rating of 5.91 was the worst on show on Monday night and along with the likes of Guzan, Richardson, Lescott and Sinclair – all having had poor starts to the season – it’s Villa’s most experienced Premier League names that are under-performing.
3) …And in with the new
Tim Sherwood and Kevin MacDonald showed very little faith in some of the club’s summer signings, quickly restoring a number of the old guard to the starting XI. Kieran Richardson’s re-introduction at the expense of Jordan Amavi was bizarre to say the least. Amavi has been among the team’s top performers since a move from Nice, securing the highest WhoScored rating (7.48) at the club.
Elsewhere, Jordan Ayew cuts both a frustrated and frustrating figure at times but does inject a spark Agbonlahor can no longer provide. The former Lorient man has scored in consecutive league games and earned the penalty for Villa’s consolation in midweek. Jordan Veretout arrived with a glowing reputation but has started once in the league since the first two games of the season. Garde’s ability to integrate his compatriots into Villa’s short and long term vision will be crucial.
4) Settled tactics
The decision not to start with Rudy Gestede, who had an obvious impact from the bench at Tottenham, was odd. He has been far from undroppable in recent weeks but started against the aerially adept Saints defensive pairing in midweek before MacDonald then opted for pace against Tottenham’s Belgian duo, with Toby Alderweireld among the most mobile in the league. Before him, Tim Sherwood had seemingly just picked names out of a hat – Villa have started 18 players three or more times in the league and utilised five different formations – and there was little method to that madness. Garde must prove his mooted credentials very quickly.
5) Make room for a little magic
While going back to basics at the back will be key, Villa need to alleviate pressure on the defence by keeping the ball further up the pitch. Jack Grealish was able of doing that with Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke around him, but has had very little help this season. A reluctance to field Carles Gil is a constant irritation to the fans. The little Spaniard very nearly turned the game on its head against Spurs, with no player having more touches (26) following his 65th minute introduction. The 22-year old has made only seven Premier League starts for the club, but has averaged 1.7 key passes and 3.8 dribbles per 90 minutes in England’s top-flight.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with the new free-to-download WhoScored iOS app.