Aston Villa Club Focus – Testing week for McLeish leaves Villa on the brink

A week ago it was suggested that this would be a season-defining week for Aston Villa, and that is exactly what it has proven to be. With one point from two important home ties against Sunderland and Bolton, Villa are now just 3 points clear of the Premier League relegation zone and in real danger of dropping down into the Championship.

But who is to blame for such a poor season? Is it Randy Lerner and his tightening of the budget? Is it Martin O’Neill spending the money Lerner once so willingly gave and wasting it on low quality players, paying them hugely inflated wages along the way? Maybe it is the Premier League itself, lavishing great riches to the top four teams for television rights, leaving the likes of Aston Villa this world to scrape together their pennies and hope for a petrodollar-fuelled takeover? Could it be injuries, with several key members of the first team succumbing to the curse throughout the season?

The answer is plain and simple, and although the above may have been factors towards Aston Villa’s downfall, they are not the underlying cause. The blame has to fall on the manager, Alex McLeish. In the 10 months he has been in charge he has shown nothing to prove to anyone that he deserves to be running the show at Villa Park. The players lack motivation and inspiration. Charles N’Zogbia was quoted on his Twitter account in early February saying that he had never been so unhappy playing football in his entire career, which was followed weeks later by Gabriel Agbonlahor’s comment to the Sun that he wished the season was over already.

McLeish has also failed in the transfer market for the most part, with several of his players failing to live up to expectations. The unhappy N’Zogbia, who cost the club almost £10m, has had a torrid first season with less than a handful of goals and assists to his name, compared to his previous club Wigan Athletic where he flourished under Roberto Martinez. Alan Hutton has also failed to impress, with several dismal performances throughout the season. The risk of signing Jermaine Jenas has also backfired, with McLeish opting to guarantee to pay his wages weekly, knowing that he had a history of injury problems. The Achilles injury he suffered during just his third appearance for the club, coming after he was unavailable for the first month of his loan spell due to another injury, has run up a hefty bill in wages.

The manager’s questionable substitutions and inability to play with any creative freedom was known to all Villa fans before he arrived, and he has not learned from his costly mistakes in his relegation season with Birmingham City last time out. The Villa board have backed their manager in recent days and called for fans of the club to follow suit. Will they still be saying the same come the end of the season? Will relegation to the Championship be acceptable for Chairman Lerner and chief executive Peter Faulkner? The fans have called for a change, and a change is definitely needed.

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