Aston Villa chief executive gingerly boarded a flight this morning bound for New York and crisis discussions with the club’s American owner Randy Lerner. He will be accompanied by sporting director Hendrik Almstadt for the crunch talks about Villa’s dismal start to the season which reached a new low at the weekend when Remi Garde’s side failed to dispatch League Two Wycombe in the FA cup. Having failed to win a single game in over two and a half months, Garde saw the FA clash with the Blues as the ideal kick start to their season. It all looked promising when Micah Richards fired home after 22 minutes with Villa in control. But in the second half, Wycombe responded well earning a penalty within five minutes of the restart which was duly converted by Joe Jacobson. From then on Villa labored to get back into the match but it was Wycombe who looked more likely as the confidence seeped out of the Villa players.
At the full time whistle the jeers rolled out from the travelling Villa fans and rightly so, with the frustrating boiling over to the point that club captain Richards felt compelled to go speak to some fans behind the Villa dug out. They claimed that the team weren’t truing and weren’t fit to wear the shirt, a claim Richards vehemently denied. Unable to appease the fans, Richards headed down the tunnel with the rest of the team before boarding the team bus. The abuse didn’t stop there as a small section of Villa fans protested as the players made their way onto the coach in what can only be described as ugly scenes. Afterwards Remi Garde was philosophical when he called for calm stating that the situation that Villa is in is very difficult and that everyone needed to stay calm, face responsibility and look in the mirror to get out of the situation.
Unfortunately it is going to take more than calm for Villa to save themselves now. Rooted to the bottom of the Premier League with only eight points from their first twenty games, it will likely take a miracle to stop Villa from being relegated. One win and five draws all season is simply not good enough and the team deserve to be where they are. Garde’s arrival was meant to revive this once proud club but even the Frenchman has been unable to halt the slide. He has complained that the squad he has does not have the talent needed to save them from relegation and he is right with Villa needing to bring in at least 5-6 players in key positions to give them any sort of chance. Arsenal’s Mathieu Debuchy is top of that list and will be part of the discussion that Lerner, Fox and Almstadt have in New York this week. But given Villa’s precarious situation and likely relegation, Lerner will have a difficult decision ahead of him – invest in the team now to give them a chance to survive or admit defeat and start planning for life in the Championship.
Many pundits and fans believe that Villa spending big in the January window would be foolish with the club needing to go down to effectively restart. It may not be the worse thing for the club that has danced too frequently around the relegation zone in the past few seasons. Bad business decisions, poor signings and rotten luck in the last five years has turned Villa from a Premier league mainstay into a joke outfit with the drop inevitable. Dropping down into the Championship may allow the club to start again, clear the deadwood and go back to basics. But the fans need to realize that bouncing straight back up may not be on the cards as life in the Championship is arguably tougher than in the Premier League. England’s second tier is riddled with clubs who have fallen from the top flight and have yet to get back up. Some like Middlesbrough, Ipswich and Derby have learnt the tough lessons and restructured their clubs better focusing on youth development as a way to finance their next assault. Others like Bolton, Fulham and Blackburn continue to dwindle as they pay the price for similar poor choices made during their time in the Premier League. Villa’s demise has been swift but the framework is still there with the club possessing an impressive youth development team. Life in the Championship under Garde may give the likes of Andre Green, Callum Robinson, Janoi Donacien and Easah Sulliman the chance the need to shine and in turn bring back a sense of long term optimism to the club that has been desperately lacking of late.