Aston Villa in Championship: Five players relegated Villa should fight to keep
Holly Thackeray | April 17, 2016
Aston Villa are confirmed to be playing Championship football next campaign after being beaten by Manchester United.
The grim reality of losing Premier League status must be confronted sooner or later, leaving the Villans looking at how they can return instead to the top-flight as quickly as possible.
Plenty of fingers can be pointed around the Birmingham-based club, from absent and want-away owner Randy Lerner to Tim Sherwood’s poor summer spending, Remi Garde’s inability to at least steady the ship and, of course, the underperforming players themselves.
Still, having lost out on the lucrative TV money and seen so much quality depart the club in Christian Benteke, Fabian Delph and co, Villa can perhaps not have quite the clear-out they crave this off-season with Championship football unlikely to lure fresh talent.
Having not turned out in the second-division since 1987, the Midlands men must resign themselves to working with what they have and adapting to the toil of a lower league.
No “overnight fix”
It could be a long road back, with the Birmingham claret and blue’s cast roundly booed by their own fans as they sank to Bournemouth (16/1 with Coral for a top 10 finish) at Villa Park last to chants of “You’re not fit to wear the shirt”.
Speaking of the Cherries capitulation, before Man Utd confirmed the slip down divisions, interim boss Eric Black said of the fans: “I can fully understand them.
“We’ve won 18 or 19 games at home out of 80, that’s four-and-a-half games a season, so that’s not going to get the fans jumping up and down with confidence.
“Fans have every right to voice their feelings and I must admit if I was one of them, I don’t think I’d be jumping up and down. I think the time has come for the club to give something back to the fans now.
“This club will I’m sure one day come back but it’s going to be a mighty challenge. I went down with Birmingham City and we came straight back up but my goodness it is a huge turnaround,” the Englishman continued, amid rumours he is to be replaced by Nigel Pearson or David Moyes.
“It’s not going to be an overnight fix. There’s a lot of hard work to be done but we’ve got to give the fans something to get excited about.”
Undoubtedly the dugout change will be most crucial for a club of Villa’s stature, but here are five players Coral writers reckon Aston Villa should concentrate on retaining for the Championship instead of seeking a fire-sale.
After all, failing to make their news faces gel last summer almost certainly contributed to this calamitous campaign, which resulted in just three victories and 16 points with a whopping goal difference of minus 41…
Former Blackburn Rovers goal machine Rudy Gestede has undoubtedly failed to have the impact expected, with six strikes in 25 games across all competitions leading to suggestions that he is not up to the task of leading the line in a top-flight side.
To be blunt, however, the Villans will not be that for much longer, and require a player who can be a Championship protagonist – and Benin goal bagger Gestede boasts this on his CV in spades.
With 32 strikes across his last two league seasons, the French-born forward, regardless of ceiling, can still be a reliable source of strikes in the more physical game he knows so well.
Villa barely made use of the 27-year-old’s aerial threat and he was in and out of the team with just 11 top-tier starts, so his five strikes in that context do not look so shabby. Another chance should be given.
Yes, another one of the misfiring strikeforce, to combine for a paltry 23 goals (eight less scored than any other PL team) is selected here.
However, the younger of the Ayew brothers has been a relative breath of fresh air when compared to his fellow summer sign-ups.
An adaptable, energetic attacker, Ayew was a bright spot as he struck a consolation goal against Bournemouth, taking his league tally to six for the term.
Strong, quick, creative and keen to put in a shift, Villa will have to fight hard to keep a grip on the Ghana forward, but he could prove just the star needed to spearhead a return to the top.
Criminally underused by Sherwood, guileful Gil is far from a finished product, and the Spaniard certainly needs to iron out some inconsistencies.
Still, the 23-year-old midfielder remains one of Villa’s most imaginative players and, if willing to graft in the Championship, may find his magic able to work more effectively there.
There will be questions as to whether Gil can hold his own in the rough and tumble, but if he is surrounded by the right players at Villa Park, fans could see those fearsome and spectacular strikes rocket off his left boot more often.
A Barcelona academy product, 20-year-old Traore looked a coup for Villa, but certainly did not sign up for second-tier trials.
Should they cling on to the starlet this summer, the young wingman’s blistering pace could come in handy on the counter if the Villans find teams tough to break down, if he can shrug off injury niggles. Retaining Traore over Jack Grealish, whose attitude has come in for much criticism, may prove the best wildcard option.
There is certainly ability there, even if only seen in flashes, with boss Black recently stating: “He is indisciplined in a lot of areas but he definitely is one of those which gets you off your seat.
“He is the quickest player I think I have seen in British football for many years.”
With a return to Ligue 1 mooted amid reported interest from Marseille, Gueye may not fancy sticking around without the glamour of the Premier League.
Still, if Villa can resist the temptation to offload the exuberant midfielder as they undoubtedly seek to slash wages and dump high-earning players, they may just find his all-action approach a great help in the combative Championship.
Ahead of lauded Leicester City star N’Golo Kante for interceptions this season, Gueye could be one of the first to go, but that could well prove to be a mistake as Villa will need steel as well as silk.