Is there light at the end of the tunnel for Aston Villa?

Hugh Plummer on the potential evolution at Villa Park:

You would imagine that three consecutive relegation battles would be more than enough for any football fan to experience, but for Aston Villa it has become a running theme. The Midlands club have endured a dramatic fall of grace since the Martin O’Neill era when they were regular top ten finishers, with a growing trend of selling their best players leaving them in a precarious position. It says a lot about the character and mental strength at Villa Park that they have been able to remain in the Premier League, particularly last season when they appeared destined for relegation until Tim Sherwood walked through the door, but there are websites which have already written off Aston Villa’s chances of surviving a fourth basement battle with odds of 2/5 for them to finally fall through the trap door.

They already find themselves five points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table, but holding early pacesetters Manchester City to a goal-less draw on home soil not only arrested an alarming slide of seven consecutive league defeats, but also injected fresh optimism that it could be the foundations for new manager Remi Garde to build on and lift Aston Villa from the doldrums. The former Arsenal manager will have undoubtedly been made aware of the huge task which lays ahead of him at a club that have clung onto their Premier League status by their fingernails in recent years, and although an influx of arrivals during the summer created fresh optimism that 2015/2016 would be much brighter, it has already descended into yet another struggle for survival.

Garde replaced Sherwood as the itchy trigger finger of chairmen across the country became too much to handle during an annual period when clubs choose to make a managerial change in an effort to transform their fortunes around; it’s more about betting on Premier League managers it seems at Betway, but while Jose Mourinho and Alex Neil are favourites to follow Sherwood and Dick Advocaat out the door at their respective clubs, it became clear that change was needed at Aston Villa. Picking up a mere five points from a possible thirty-six and being the joint-lowest scorers in the Premier League is inexcusable, but the lack of quality and fight on the pitch has undoubtedly been Villa’s biggest crime.

Their fans deserve so much better, no doubt about it.

Being an Aston Villa fan must be extremely painful at this present time, particularly when you consider their club is under the control of an owner who wants to sell at the first available opportunity, and the team appear to lack the stomach for yet another relegation fight. However, the result, and more importantly the performance, against Manchester City provided some invaluable light at the end of the tunnel for a beleaguered team who belied their lack of confidence to put in a thoroughly spirited display. This is all that Aston Villa fans ask from their team – to give one hundred percent, remain committed to the cause and wear the claret shirt with pride.

Holding Manuel Pellegrini’s side to a deserved draw was an indication of what Aston Villa are capable of, but also provided a positive indication of the impact that Garde has made in his short time at Villa Park. It will undoubtedly take the Frenchman time to implement his own ideas and philosophies across the football club, although the current international break should be the break that Aston Villa need in their efforts to transform their season around. However, history would suggest that Garde will find it difficult to experience his first victory as a Premier League manager as they face a trip to Goodison Park against a team they have failed to beat in their own back yard since December 2008. A dramatic injury-time goal from Ashley Young was enough to seal all three points in a game where Joleon Lescott, now an Aston Villa player, scored both of Everton’s goals but ended up on the losing team as Aston Villa took away a 3-2 win. It may explain why Everton are overwhelming favourites at 1/2,while Garde’s men, who have not won since the opening day victory at Bournemouth, find themselves as 11/2 rank outsiders.

Leaving Goodison Park with a positive result would undoubtedly be another step in the right direction for Aston Villa, and although Garde may never experience a more greater test throughout the rest of his managerial career than the one he currently faces head-on at Villa Park, there are signs that it could be premature to write off a team that are odds-on to play Championship football next season.