Tim Sherwood's been, in a number of ways, quite lucky this season. But that luck's quickly running out.
Yes! You lucky people get another Tim Sherwood article and a long overdue one too, as everybody's favourite loud mouth manager's been out of the press a bit of late. That, in case you were wondering, has been his good luck. Unfortunately, he's going to be smack-bang in all of the rumour columns at the end of the international break.
Villa have had a terrible start to the season by just about any measure. They have won a game, which is more than Newcastle or Sunderland below them can claim, but they've also lost more often than either of the North-East based shambles. Since that opening day win away to Bournemouth, no team in the Premier League has been worse than them. Villa Park is less of a football ground than it is a venue for group mourning this season. There have been reports of fans going en masse to funerals just to watch something a little less depressing.
And yet, Sherwood hasn't taken the battering from the media that befits a manager in his position. Why not?
Well, he's one of the few people in English football at the moment who owes a debt to Brendan Rodgers and Jose Mourinho, with maybe a little tip of the cap to Dick Advocaat. Even in this content-hungry modern world, there's only so much that can get covered and for once in his career, Sherwood is by far the least interesting story.
Almost every single traditional reason to cover Sherwood could be applied better elsewhere. Villa have had bad results? Well, Sunderland are bottom of the table without a win. They spent a lot of money this summer? Let me just show you Liverpool's balance sheet this summer. He says wacky things in the press? You've clearly yet to be introduced to a man called Jose Mourinho...
Sherwood's window of safety is rapidly slamming shut, though. Advocaat and Rodgers are gone - the former walking, the latter getting pushed - and speculation about their respective replacements isn't going to take up the back pages for long. Sherwood's now third-favourite to be the next Premier League manager to leave his job, and those odds will shrink rapidly once the press really sink their teeth in.
Does he deserve the hailstorm of speculation that's going to come his way? After all, he did save the club from relegation a few months ago didn't he?
As ever, the answer's not a straightforward yes or no. The change in manager did help results turn around, but five wins and seven losses in thirteen games is hardly a miraculous record. Especially when some of those losses came to a dreadful Newcastle and a Burnley side who still got relegated. Oh, and there was the 6-1 hammering from Southampton. Then there was the 3-3 draw at home to a QPR team who lost 16 of 19 on the road all season.
The point is that while Sherwood deserves some credit for turning Villa around last season, it wasn't necessarily all his doing. 'New manager syndrome' and all that. Even when things were looking good at the end of last season, his tactical nous was questioned in many parts. The similarities with Brendan Rodgers grew again: both praised as excellent man-managers for getting the best out of mercurial strikers before sinking down the table when the strikers left and it became clear that it was them, not the manager, doing the heavy lifting.
Sherwood came out with a statement on the Villa website after the loss to Stoke on the weekend, and inadvertently revealed just how far out of his depth he really is.
In the most telling part of the statement, he said: "I have to find the right ingredients to put them on the pitch at the right time against the opposition we play and try and get a spark. I am still searching for that. At the moment it isn't there.
"I keep changing the systems and changing the formations in search of that. On Saturday against Stoke it wasn't there. We need to find it. I will be searching for the right formation and the right players to play in it."
Tim, it's October. You've been at the club since February. You shouldn't still be looking around for a single miracle formation. You should know who your best players are. You definitely shouldn't be picking your tactics with some pieces of paper and a dartboard. It's time to go, and leave the job for someone who actually knows what they're doing. Maybe a balloon with a smiley face drawn on it, or something.
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