Once upon a time at Aston Villa all was going well. They were regularly finishing in the top half of the Premier League but more recently they’ve been near the wrong end of the table. Now rock bottom, here’s a look back at the collapse of Aston Villa.
Rewind back to the 2007/08 season, Villa finished in 6th place and secured a place in the next season’s UEFA cup, where they got through the group stage before being knocked out by CSKA Moscow.
They managed to finish 6th in the next two seasons, and all of this was under the management of Northern Irishman and current Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill. He’d previously done very well at both Leicester City and Celtic, so when he took over at Villa in 2006, he already had a respectable reputation to succeed David O’Leary as manager.
It wasn’t just the management that was doing the job for Villa, they also had a very good squad that was capable of beating the top teams on their day. This included many renowned English players such as Gareth Barry, James Milner and Emile Heskey, who all have over 50 caps for England. They also had strikers with an eye for goal like John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor, who provided a balance of pace and power to the team.
After Martin O’Neill departed from the club in 2010, Frenchman Gérard Houllier took over the reigns having best been remembered for guiding Liverpool to FA cup, League cup and UEFA cup success in the 2000/01 season. He was only in charge of Villa for the 2010/11 season and left the club by mutual consent mainly due to health problems. They still finished 9th in the league that season and although they hadn’t quite reached the heights of the previous season, it was still seen as a decent finish for them.
It was around this time the slow decline of Villa began and led to where they are today. Many elements have led to this including the sale of some key players over the next few seasons. This included the likes of Gareth Barry and James Milner, both departing for Manchester City for a combined fee of £38 million. Fellow England internationals Stuart Downing and Ashley Young also departed for Liverpool and Manchester United respectively for £37 million.
Since Houllier departed, four different managers have been in charge and have all ended departing fairly quickly. Scotsman Alex McLeish was in charge for the 2011/12 season where they finished 16th and during his time had an incredibly low win percentage of only 21.4%. Fellow Scot Paul Lambert took over for the 2012/13 season where he guided them to a 15th place finish, still flirting above the relegation zone. They finished in the same position the following season with no sign of the squad developing.
Villa were unbeaten for the first four games of the 2014/15 season having won three and drawn one as Lambert signed a new contract until 2018. It was all downhill from there though, as he was sacked in February 2015 and former Tottenham Hotspur manager Tim Sherwood replaced him. Although he led them to the FA cup final where they lost 4-0 to Arsenal – it never took off for him and he was soon the next managerial casualty of Villa – getting sacked in October 2015. Frenchman Rémi Garde was next in the hot seat with the almost impossible job of keeping them up. It was no surprise in March 2016 that he departed from the club with them rock bottom of the Premier League and destined for the drop. He managed just three wins during his spell in charge.
A lot of the blame has been pinned on the owner Randy Lerner for the way the club’s been run for the last few years. But despite that, it’s on the field that counts and sadly they haven’t delivered and will almost certainly get relegated. Regrouping after a season like this will be hard – especially trying to keep players in the current squad for the Championship – so don’t expect them to be a side that will jump straight back into the top flight.