Aston Villa Club Focus - Safety achieved: Now comes the time for change
With Aston Villa earning a point against stuttering Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park on Sunday and Bolton failing to gain all three, it looks like Aston Villa will survive in the Barclays Premier League for another season. Although just three points above the relegation zone, Villa's superior goal difference will see them finish ahead of Bolton. Only an unthinkable 17-goal swing could relegate the Midlands outfit, which is extremely unlikely. It is now time for Villa to begin planning for next season.
Their plans will begin with several players leaving, which has been the case for the previous three summer transfer windows. A clearout has almost become expected after every season at Villa in recent times, and it looks like this season will be no exception. Carlos Cuellar tweeted shortly after the game on Sunday to confirm that it would be his last game at Villa Park, which will be a big loss as he has been a key factor to their survival in the second half of the season. Emile Heskey has also confirmed that he expects to leave the club in the summer, with his contract due to run out and no sign of another being offered his way. Although many Villa fans may not be too disheartened by this news, the experience he has given to the younger contingent this season has been vital, even if his contributions on the pitch may not have been.
Back up 'keeper Brad Guzan's contract is also coming to an end in the summer, and with Shay Given having a very successful first season between the sticks, he may have to look elsewhere for first team football. With Villa having Brad Friedel in goal before the arrival of Shay Given in the summer, Guzan has never really been given his chance in the Villa first team. Before joining Villa he was briefly the USA's national team first choice, and his few appearances for Villa have shown his talent and potential.
Darren Bent is another player that has been linked with several clubs in recent months, with his attitude and commitment to Villa being called into question. Randy Lerner is very keen to recoup the massive losses that he and Villa have amassed during his leadership, and a big money offer for a player who has suffered injuries and lack of form since his move from Sunderland, could convince Lerner to sell.
Many of the fans will accept these sales, if the Villa clearout begins with the manager. Alex McLeish's position has almost become untenable at Aston Villa in recent months, with some Villa fans even going to the lengths of paying for an advertisement in a local paper to help dispose of their manager. Chairman Randy Lerner seems to be ignoring the wishes of the Villa faithful, and backing his manager one hundred percent. If McLeish is to stay in charge for another season, he will have to improve on what has been a dismal performance this time round. With the budget continuing to be tightened by Lerner, and further players leaving the club, McLeish will have to go bargain hunting if he is to find replacements to strengthen his squad.
Bret Holman is one player that has already been confirmed as an arrival in the summer. The Australian winger has been playing at AZ Alkmaar in Holland for the previous four seasons and has agreed to join Villa when his contract runs out in the summer. His experience and knowledge could prove to become a vital asset to Villa next season. For now Villa have all but survived, but if the team continues to become weaker, that survival will only be temporary.