Can Aston Villa avoid relegation after high-profile exits?
How quickly the football landscape can change. Not so long ago Aston Villa fans had every right to be triumphant about retaining captain Fabian Delph despite a Manchester City bid, while the Midlands men (10/3 chances for relegation with Coral) also continued to keep Christian Benteke out of Liverpool’s clutches.
Now, after Delph’s U-turn departure and a reported agreement for Benteke to follow suit and up sticks, the dreaded drop is on many a fan and pundit’s lips once again, before a ball has even been kicked. Though this could prove more than a little premature, there is logic to the doubts.
Do depleted Villa have enough to avoid relegation, having narrowly sidestepped the Premier League trap door, despite being able to count on the services of their skipper and star striker, last season?
While Tim Sherwood will almost certainly have the funds to fork out for replacements, there is no guarantee the Villans can attract the quality required for another battle at the bottom, or that they will gel quickly enough to count. Simply put, from looking like a club on the up, Villa Park now appears a much less desirable place.
Coach Sherwood can be praised for inspiring his charges to survival, but will that work again over a full season? Having flirted with being able to hold on to prize assets, potentially losing both will be a big blow to morale, not to mention off-putting for new and prospective signings.
The Birmingham-based club have already arguably found a replacement for Delph in midfield dynamo Idrissa Gueye, though perhaps it would be prudent, having also lost former loanee Tom Cleverley, for Villa to seek a Premier League-proven player as well.
Current transfer gossip, including a persistent link to Sherwood’s former, and controversial, Spurs charge Emmanuel Adebayor, is less than inspiring. As was proven last campaign as Benteke rediscovered fitness and form to fire home 11 times in the Villans’ last 11 league games, passion and determination when the going gets tough are what is required on a Sherwood striker’s CV.
Rumours of interest in Charlie Austin, Khouma Babacar and Mattia Destro are ambitious but much more promising and, if they can afford, the Midlands men should hedge their bets and bring two reliable frontmen to Birmingham.
Until at least the summer spending is done, never mind a few results on the pitch, it would be churlish to resign Villa (odds-on at 1/5 to stay up) to the Premier League scrap heap just yet.
Sherwood was always aiming, and expecting, to build a new side from scratch, and in his image, with plans probably in place for life without star pair Benteke and Delph. Now the coach’s scouting and motivational powers will certainly be put to the test, and should make for an interesting few months ahead.