Sherwood set for Villa overhaul after coming up short in FA Cup
Aston Villa, 10/3 with Coral to be relegated next season, are set for a summer of change, according to manager Tim Sherwood.
The Villans, who secured Premier League survival and then contested the FA Cup final where they lost heavily to holders Arsenal, missed out on European football as a UEFA rule change means runners-up in a domestic trophy no longer receive a Europa League berth.
“We gave the fans nothing to cheer about today but I promise them it will get better,” Sherwood said following the 4-0 defeat at Wembley. “We’ve stayed in the division but we have a losing mentality. We don’t want to be scraping relegation next season.
“Of course we believed we could win this but I can’t make any excuses. It’s a learning curve and we need to build a new team. Some of the boys have already been told they won’t be here next year or they can find other clubs.
“I want to be honest with players and don’t want to be stringing experienced players along. But it’s not just new additions to the squad but also getting some of the players we do have to play in a different way, to change the mentality of a few of them.”
Bearing Sherwood’s words in mind, our football experts take a look at what this might entail?
Keep spine of side at Villa Park
A mix of youth and experience runs through the core of the West Midlands outfit’s current roster. This starts in goal where veteran Republic of Ireland stopper Shay Given will continue to battle USA custodian Brad Guzan for one more season.
Netherlands international Ron Vlaar is out of contract at Villa this summer, but Sherwood has previously stated he’s hopeful of persuading his skipper and centre back to commit to the club. Shortly before replacing Paul Lambert, they also tied England international midfielder Fabian Delph down to a new deal.
Keeping hold of these players, and if possible leading marksman Christian Benteke, is essential for the progress Sherwood seeks. Liverpool are odds-on at 8/11 to take the striker to Anfield, though, after fellow Belgium international Simon Mignolet urged his compatriot to step up to Brendan Rodgers’ Reds.
Having already made one loan signing permanent in winger Scott Sinclair, midfielder Tom Cleverley could follow suit after being rejuvenated under Sherwood, though Everton are also rumoured admirers on a free transfer.
Give youth a chance
One thing the Villa boss is known for is bringing academy players through. Nabil Bentaleb and Harry Kane both got chances at Spurs while Sherwood was there, and have since established themselves as regulars.
Teenage talent Jack Grealish’s involvement is evidence that trend shall contnue, but there should also be room made for a couple of other Villa graduates that caught the eye on loan in lower divisions this term.
Gary Gardner, brother of Craig, attracted attention with mature, steady displays in midfield at Championship club Nottingham Forest. He would make a credible alternative if Cleverley does not commit permanently, or able deputy for anchorman Ashley Westwood instead of Colombia’s Carlos Sanchez.
Forward Callum Robinson scored seven goals during his spell with League One play-off winners Preston North End, and should be considered as a backup striker instead of splashing out on a foreign option.
Move the right fringe players on
Few are convinced there is strength in depth to Villa’s current squad, but we disagree. There are still some players whose careers have stalled here, and Sherwood would be right to let them go, but this is a task that requires care and not a knee-jerk reaction to a disappointing Wembley loss.
Should Benteke be sold for that release clause of £32.5m, then he will need to be replaced. Czech Republic striker Libor Kozak is the forgotten man at Villa Park, and yet to return from a broken leg. He once was Europa League top scorer during his days with Lazio and shares plenty of similar qualities to the big Belgian.
While moving him on without exploring whether Kozak could be an asset would be a definite mistake, Darren Bent to Derby County permanently on a free appears a done deal. Changes at full back are needed too with English duo Matt Lowton and Joe Bennett failing to make the step up to Premier League level.
Sherwood also needs to decide on who partners Vlaar at centre half. It’s a straight choice between Ivorian-born Denmark international Jores Okore or Ireland’s Ciaran Clark, as Swiss defender Philippe Senderos is out of favour.
Add quality where needed
Where Villa have fallen down may have been a lack of competition in key areas. Central midfield is a notable example, and they have been linked with a swoop for Republic of Ireland box-to-box player Jeff Hendrick.
An understanding may be reached with Derby as Bent is set to go there for keeps on a Bosman. Left back looks a problem position with seasoned pro Kieran Richardson needing some relief. Aly Cissokho has not provided that, but Scotland’s Andrew Robertson, relegated with Hull City, should jump at the chance to remain in the Premier League.
Sherwood has also been linked with a swoop for Spurs outcast Emmanuel Adebayor, and bringing in a proven Premier League performer he knows how to manage would appease Villa fans in the event of any Benteke sale or to even supplement him.
Next term is one where there is cause for optimism, and nobody at Villa Park should be thinking about relegation, as the club holds a strong odds-on price of 2/9 to stay up.