The last time we played Aston Villa, we were beaten by Tim Sherwood. That wasn't fun, was it? But you know what WAS fun? Bantering with the Aston Villa blog at SB Nation, 7500 to Holte, one of my absolute favorite blogs on SB Nation. (Did you know that 7500 was nominated for a Football Blogging Award for Best Team Blog this fall? Well, now you do. It's well deserved.)
But now Sherwood is gone, and Villa are manager-less at the bottom of the table. They're in deeeeeeeep trouble. Spurs, on the other hand, are unbeaten in nine games, and a win could take them as high as fifth, and within three points of third. I checked in with my good friend Robert Lintott to ask him how things were going.
DM: Soooooooooo, Robert, how's it going?
RL: /hiccups, sitting on the floor in a corner
/looks up at you
/looks back down at brown bag with a glass (okay fine, plastic) neck coming out of it
/takes a long, hard swig of whatever clear liquid is contained in the bag
DM: So let's break down the Tim Sherwood thing. Take the pulse of the average Villa fan for us: was it time for Tactics Tim to go, or were there fans that wanted to stick with him? Also, am I allowed to say "I told you so?"
RL: Well, there was this guy, who backed Sherwood all along. Did I just spend five minutes searching for that tweet because I am petty and bitter? Why yes, yes I did. And that should tell you how most of the rest of us felt. The writing was on the wall for Tim and Damocles' sword was dangling above his head and some other metaphor about impending doom. And it was his own doing, too. You wouldn't know it from the results but rational people were saying at the start of this season that Villa had the talent for a top-half finish! No, really!
But Tim just scuppered it all away with piss poor tactics that mis-used those new players he was willing to try and didn't use a lot of the ones he should. Libor Kozak, for instance, was our joint top-scorer in preseason. That's good! He's not a bad player! And he's played in zero minutes of league action. Mostly because you wouldn't want to take time away from Rudy Gestede or Gabby Agbonlahor or this really shiny rock that Tim just found.
What? You want me to stop? Sorry, just a bit bitter. I suppose you told me so.
DM: I tried to, at least. Anyway, there's a lot of speculation (harry redknapp) about who might replace Tim Sherwood (harry redknapp) as manager of Villa. Of the (harry redknapp) various candidates you've seen suggested, who would be your preference (harry redknapp) and why?
RL: Well, the first choice (of both myself and the bookies) is former Lyon manager and Arsen... (/gets pelted by tomatoes) Arsena... (/dodges a fish and profanities, ducks behind something left here like Chekov's gun for me to duck behind) Arsenal defender Remi Garde. At Lyon he got experience in a system like that which Villa are trying to build (director of football, scouting people making decisions, etc.) and had lots of success. So he seems a natural fit. But he apparently only will come if we can get his assistants, and the clubs for which they work currently are being difficult, which seems rude. Why can't we just buy everything we want away from France?
If it's not Garde I... ugh. No. Let's not. I just want it to be Garde. [Editor's note: as of Sunday evening, it does appear to be Remi Garde.]
Bonus pun to appease your Harry Redknapp needs: I'd rather be en Garde than Harryed by Redknapp.
DM: How do you expect Villa will line up to get a result against Spurs now that they're under... uh, who exactly is managing Villa right now?
RL: Kevin MacDonald, caretaker supreme! There's no reason for you to remember this other than the schadenfreude of another club (one who were competing with Spurs for the coveted "almost great but not quite" title at the time), but when Martin O'Neill resigned days before the 2010-11 season, it was MacDonald who took over to a 2-1-2 record before the appearance of Gerard Houllier.
And how will we line up? I literally have no idea whatsoever. On Wednesday against Southampton in the League Cup we played a 4-4-2(ish?) thing with FOUR FULL-BACKS. Leandro Bacuna and Alan Hutton were on the right and Jordan Amavi and Kieran Richardson were on the left. Then we had two defensive midfielders in the middle, and a fast corn stalk (Gabby Agbonlahor) and a man with worse kicking skills than Brad Guzan (Rudy Gestede) up front. So that's just pants-on-head crazy, and for 45 minutes it was the best we had looked in weeks.
So my guess is that we'll go with some sort of football formation, possibly with eleven players, though I wouldn't bet on that. And before you think "Oh Robert's just being cheeky," I mean it when I say that I have no idea whatsoever. I hope and pray that Wednesday was "Oh, it's League Cup, we can send out a fake XI," but God knows it could have been a sign of things to come.
DM: Let's talk about the Adebayor Cup. Currently Spurs are a modest 13 points ahead of Villa in the #AdeCup race, with a goal differential delta of 16. I feel bad. Really bad, actually, so I'm giving you a free out on this one. Are you sure you don't want to take me up on it?
DM: Are you SURE sure? Because I like to think of myself as a good person.
RL: I think of you as a good person too. And I imagine that means that you'll write an amazing song when Remi Garde joins and leads Aston Villa to twenty victories, six draws, and one loss after this week and Villa finish in the top three and Spurs are left crying. See all of that pessimism up there (^)? NONE of it holds for the Ade Cup.
DL: So, more of a serious question: what will it take to fix Villa? Is it more talent? Is it tactics? Is it an influx of #grit and #passion? Is it a swift kick in the backside? What does the new Villa manager need to do in order to ensure that Villa stays up another season?
RL: I think it's a combination of proper player selection (use Libor Kozak! Use Adama Traore! DON'T USE JOLEON LESCOTT!) and tactics. It seemed that Tim could get one of two correct, and that would be enough to staunch the bleeding. Then the opposition would make an adjustment, Tim would just scratch his head and mash buttons to make a change of his own.
Pick a formation. Stick to it. Get players comfortable with each other, and play to your strengths. This may not be the top-half team that I thought it could be at the beginning of the season, but with this much talent, it shouldn't be a relegation squad. And really, honestly, utilizing that talent to do just enough to avoid relegation shouldn't be hard. Do the basics right and Villa will be fine. Do them well, and we can put relegation fears behind us.
DM: Who's the one reasonable January transfer target that would improve Aston Villa the most?
RL: Emmanuel Adebayor.
DM: Oh, yes, please.
Oh. Reasonable. Umm. Gosh, I don't have any names at the tip of my tongue, but how about this: a new keeper. Brad Guzan has been an absolute travesty this year. He is still a moderately skilled shot stopper (there are days that I doubt that, but hey) and shows poise when he's asked to leave his line and challenge for a ball. But his distribution is TERRIBLE and on at least two instances Villa have given up a goal because Guzan sent it to a defender with their back turned who was immediately overtaken by an onrushing opposition player. When defenders get the ball from the keeper, they do not expect to be mauled. So why pass to them? Guzan's abilities as a keeper are not significantly above average (i.e. easily replaceable) and his ability to distribute is among the worst in the league. Fix that and Villa have a huge problem taken care of.
DM: Seriously, can you just hire Harry Redknapp? Because that'd be pretty great.
RL: Only if he wears a top hat always.
DM: Finally, let's get a score prediction.
RL: Spurs 3-1 Villa. And in terms of entertainment, this match will be 2 out of 5 Adebayors.
Thanks a million to Robert from 7500 to Holte for taking the time to answer my trolltastic questions. Are you following 7500's twitter feed? You should. It's fantastic.