Aston Villa officially relegated for first time in 28 years

Aston Villa’s long-awaited relegation has been officially confirmed following the club’s 1-0 loss to Manchester United today, ending a run of 28 consecutive seasons in English football’s top flight.

The Villains have been simply dreadful this season with major struggles on and off the field confining them to their worst season in their 141-year history.

Manchester United youngster Marcus Rashford may have scored the goal that confirmed Villa’s relegation today, but most fans knew they were doomed from December onwards.

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Villa have won just three games all season and are left 15 points adrift of Norwich in 17th place with four games to play. Their performances have been appalling and preparations for life in the Championship next term will now begin.

Interim manager Eric Black is unlikely to be the man in the dugout come August, but whoever takes over will be stepping into one of English football’s most troubled clubs, with major problems left to be addressed throughout the structure of the organisation.

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Black is the team’s fourth manager this season, following on from Tim Sherwood, Kevin MacDonald and Remi Garde, who were all unable to inspire a squad of players who look out of their depth in the Premier League.

Quality first-team players left the club last summer but none were replaced properly. Losing the likes of Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke meant the season was always going to be tough but few could have anticipated just how bad things have been.

Table: Aston Villa have struggled enormously in every aspect this season.

Table: Aston Villa have struggled enormously in every aspect this season.

The Villains are one of only seven English clubs to have played in every Premier League season to this point but that run will now come to an end.

Two other Premier League clubs will join Villa in the Championship next term, with Newcastle, Sunderland and Norwich all battling for their lives at the bottom of the table.

Aston Villa bounced straight back up following their last relegation in 1987, but a repeat of that achievement looks highly unlikely at this stage, with one of English football’s most historic clubs in complete disarray.

Do you think Aston Villa will bounce straight back up to the Premier League next season? 

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Opinion: Why Spurs should offload Andros Townsend this month

With England winger Andros Townsend continuously being linked with a move away from Spurs this month, Louis East argues whether it’s time for the North London club to cash in.

Tottenham’s Andros Townsend is a man in demand. The 24-year-old winger has fallen down the pecking order at Spurs since Mauricio Pochettino arrived and is now a £12 million target for a host of Premier League sides.

It is believed that former manager Tim Sherwood wants him at Aston Villa, while Newcastle, Sunderland and London rivals West Ham are also keen to secure the England international’s services.

Spurs are reportedly willing to sell their academy product if an offer of at least £12 million arrives before the end of the transfer window. But should they be so willing to let him go?

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Playing time isn’t guaranteed for Townsend this season, especially as he found it difficult to force his way into Pochettino’s first-team plans last term. He missed the opening day trip to Old Trafford with a shoulder injury and played no part in their preseason trips to the USA and Germany.

He may be back in training now but it’s hard to envisage Townsend getting many league starts this season. Nacer Chadli, Moussa Dembele and Erik Lamela are all ahead of the pacey wide-man at this point, with the Lilywhites still looking to strengthen out wide as Clinton N’Jie is reportedly closing in on a move to England.

That could see Townsend settling for regular Europa League games on Thursday nights and cameo appearances from the bench in the league – something that the player himself wouldn’t be too keen on ahead of the European Championships at the end of the season.

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Despite his lack of playing time at club level, Roy Hodgson remains a big fan of Townsend but there’s only so little action a player can see before he is overlooked for a place in an international tournament squad.

Spurs supporters were excited when Townsend burst onto the scene two years ago after more than nine loan spells at English clubs, but he has since grown very predictable and sections of White Hart Lane can be heard groaning with every wasted step-over the academy product pulls off.

Andros Townsend's Spurs stats from past two seasons (via Squawka)

Andros Townsend’s Spurs stats from past two seasons (via Squawka)

Too many wasteful crosses and off-target longshots have seen Townsend’s path to stardom halted. A fresh start at another top-flight club, with regular game time guaranteed would give him another chance to prove his quality, and would surely secure him a place in Hodgson’s England squad for Euro 2016.

Spurs are actively looking for new wingers, while a new wave of young talent, headed by Alex Pritchard will only make it more difficult for Townsend to forge his way back to where he was when Tim Sherwood was in charge in 2014.

Time looks to be up and with Spurs looking to secure the signing of N’Jie for an estimated £12 million, Townsend will more than likely be sold to pay for the signing of the young Cameroon international.

STATS: Should Aston Villa fans be excited about new signing Jordan Amavi?

Much of the focus on Aston Villa this transfer window has been on outgoings as Fabian Delph has already joined Manchester City, with Christian Benteke expected to complete a £32.5 million move to Liverpool this week.

But while those two losses will undoubtedly worry Villa supporters, they have reason for optimism ahead of Tim Sherwood’s first full season in management.

Scott Sinclair has joined on a permanent deal, while Idrissa Gueye, Mark Bunn and Micah Richards have also arrived. But the most exciting addition to the Villa squad so far looks to be Jordan Amavi after the French left-back joined on a five-year contract from OGC Nice for a fee believed to be around £9 million.

Jordan Amavi Statistics Graph

Graph: Jordan Amavi’s statistics over the past two league campaigns with Nice

Amavi is only 21, but has already shown bundles of promise playing in Ligue 1 over the past two season and progressed enormously last season as he missed just two league games. Arsenal were linked with his signature before his move to Villa was confirmed, so he is clearly held in high esteem.

The France Under-21 international netted four goals and created 32 chances for teammates (via Squawka) in what was an impressive campaign that saw him ranked as the second best player in the division behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, according to WhoScored.

Left-back has been a position that several Villa managers have tried to fix over the past seven seasons since Wilfred Bouma suffered an ankle injury that ended his Villa career in July 2008.

Amavi will look to be the ideal man to occupy the role over the course of the 2015/16 season and beyond, with that five-year contract something Villains supporters will be excited about.

His age could be a concerning factor as he is still inexperienced, especially for a defender stepping into the Premier League for the first time, while he will also need to ensure he remains disciplined after he picked up the joint second-highest number of yellow cards in Ligue 1 last term with 11.

Aston Villa have a relatively easy start to the season with Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Leicester and West Brom in five of their opening six games, though Manchester United travel to Villa Park in the second week of the campaign in what will be a real test.

Will Jordan Amavi prove a hit at Aston Villa? 

Could Chelsea beat Liverpool to this £32.5m star to replace MLS bound Drogba?

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba is set to leave the club with MLS his most likely destination, leaving the Blues with only two recognised Premier League forwards on the books in the shape of Diego Costa and Loic Remy.

Jose Mourinho will expectedly be lining up a replacement for the Ivorian as both Costa and Remy are prone to injuries, so strength in depth could be the key to retaining the Premier League crown next season.

It has been revealed this week that Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke has a buyout clause of £32.5m and manager Tim Sherwood has admitted that should anyone meet the asking price, there is nothing Villa can do to stop him leaving.

“There’s a buyout clause in his contract so it will be impossible for us to stop him if he wants to go. Someone’s got to meet that buyout clause and if they don’t, it won’t be considered because we don’t want to lose him,” said Sherwood, as reported by The Guardian.

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Benteke enjoyed an impressive end to the season with Villa, netting 11 times in his final 11 league games, as well as helping them to the FA Cup final with a goal in the 2-1 semi-final win over Liverpool.

Sherwood knows that the cup final could be the Belgian striker’s last game for the club but has urged him to stay at Villa Park in order to hold out for a possible dream move next summer.

“We’re building up to a European Championship, which is a huge stage for Christian, and a tournament where you feel that Belgium will be one of the favourites to win it. By playing for Aston Villa it hasn’t hindered him being the first choice for Belgium up to now.

“If he were to stay here and score at the ratio that he has since I took over, and ends up with 20 or 30 goals next season and then has a good Euros, he is probably playing for Real Madrid [by 2016]. Christian could go to the best club in the world if he scores 30 goals next season. He could be that good.”

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Liverpool have already been strongly linked with the 24-year-old but a move to a side playing Champions League football could be more appealing.

Because of Benteke’s stature and strength, he is a player in a similar mould to Drogba and would suit Chelsea’s style of play under Mourinho, who likes physically imposing forwards to lead the line, therefore making the Belgian an ideal replacement.

Could Christian Benteke move to Chelsea this summer?

2014/15 Premier League Season Review: Aston Villa

Premier League Final Position: 17th

Review

It was another frustrating season for Aston Villa fans as the threat of relegation hung over the club for most of the campaign, before managing to narrowly survive. Tim Sherwood turned the fortunes around when he took over in February but the Villains end the season with their joint lowest points tally in the top flight.

They do still have an FA Cup final against Arsenal to look forward to and success at Wembley would deem the campaign a good one, but the fact remains that things weren’t good enough and Sherwood must now try and bring the club back to a level it should be at.

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Podcast Review

Best Moment

The 1-0 win away at Spurs was probably the club’s best win in the league as the result moved them six points clear of the relegation zone with five games to go. Sherwood managed to seal all three points against his former club and the team followed up success at White Hart Lane with an FA Cup semi-final win against Liverpool just eight days later.

Worst Moment

The 2-0 loss at Hull in February was a bad defeat and that game spelled the end for Paul Lambert as he was replaced by Sherwood after that match. The loss at Southampton at the end of the season was bad but they weren’t in major trouble at that point.

Player of the Year

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Fabian Delph – Didn’t score this season but picked up three assists and was probably the only player to consistently perform. He penned a new contract back in January and was rewarded for his performances over the season with England call ups.

Biggest Win

Sunderland 0-4 Aston Villa (March 14, 2015)

Biggest Defeat

Arsenal 5-0 Aston Villa (February 1, 2015)

Southampton 6-1 Aston Villa (May 16, 2015)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

There’s still a lot that needs improving at Villa. They must escape the dangers of relegation and try to compete for a top half finish once again. That’s easier said than done but Tim Sherwood may be the man to bring success back to the club. The transfer window will be crucial as retaining star players, or bringing in suitable replacements will be vital. Scoring more goals will be the main aim as they struggled for large parts of the season in front of goal, netting just 31 times.

Five reasons Tottenham’s win at Everton was so important for Pochettino

As the Premier League season came to an end on Sunday, there were few eyes on Tottenham Hotspur as the relegation battle consumed most of the attention.

But the Lilywhites’ 1-0 win at Everton was a solid result and one that is more important for head coach Mauricio Pochettino than it may seem on the surface.

Spurs ended the campaign in fifth spot, qualifying for the UEFA Europa League once again next season, and although the club will be disappointed not to have qualified for the Champions League, the result at Goodison Park was an encouraging one.

Here are five reasons why that 1-0 win at Everton was so important for Spurs and Mauricio Pochettino:

1. Pochettino no worse than Sherwood

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Tim Sherwood was not afraid of telling supporters about his win ratio while at Spurs last season, but Pochettino has ended his first campaign with the club with the same 50% win ratio that Sherwood achieved during his short tenure. Pochettino has guided Spurs to 28 wins in 56 games in all competitions this season and has a better win ratio than Harry Redknapp (49.49%) and the legendary Bill Nicholson (49.03%) so far.

2. Those three points prevent worrying statistic

The three points secured at Everton saw Spurs end the season on 64 points. That is still not an amount fans will be pleased with, and it is five points fewer than last year, but a loss on Merseyside on Sunday would have seen Tottenham end the season with the fewest points for six years.

3. Eight-year wait for win at Goodison over

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The last time Tottenham won at Everton was back in February 2007 and so Sunday’s win ended an eight-year wait. Five draws and three losses have followed since their last victory at Goodison Park and Spurs managed to do what none of the top four did this year by keeping a clean sheet away at the Toffees.

4. Are the defensive issues finally being solved?

Spurs have been nothing short of shocking at the back this season, conceding more goals than 13 other clubs. They conceded 53 goals this term but ended the campaign with back-to-back clean sheets in the league for the first time since the opening two games of the season back in August.

5. Harry Kane’s mini-drought over

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Harry Kane has enjoyed a sensational season, scoring a total of 31 goals in all competitions – the most any Spurs player has managed since Gary Lineker netted 35 in the 1991/92 campaign. But despite his incredible goalscoring antics, some had started to question whether Kane had burnt out after scoring just once in his last eight prior to kickoff at Everton. He scored what proved to be the winner though with his first in five and ends the season as the second-highest scorer in the top flight behind Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero.

How important was Tottenham’s win at Everton on Sunday? What needs to be done to secure a top four finish next season?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Aston Villa vs Burnley

Competition: Premier League – Aston Villa vs. Burnley

Venue: Villa Park – Sunday, May 24th – 15:00 BST (10:00 ET)

Match Odds: Aston Villa 21/20 – Draw 5/2 – Burnley 12/5

Match Preview

Aston Villa take on Burnley in the final game of the 2014/15 of the Premier League season and Burnley’s last appearance before their drop back to the Championship.

Tim Sherwood‘s appointment as Villa boss in February is one of the stories of the season and his rejuvenation of the side has seen them stay up.

Despite Villa’s escape from the drop last weekend’s 6-1 thumping by Southampton is one to forget and the Villans can end the season on a good note by heaping more misery on already relegated Burnley.

Christian Benteke hit form at the right time for Sherwood and his goals have played a major role in retaining top flight football for the club. He has scored 11 in his last ten games.

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Burnley just haven’t had enough to avoid the drop this season and they were the first side to be drop back down to the Championship.

Sean Dyche‘s side have lost 19 games this season and it is not surprising they haven’t stayed up as winning just six games is not good enough.

They picked up a point last weekend against Stoke and the best they can hope for is a positive result here to avoid finishing at the foot of the table.

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Danny Ings has been the best thing for the club this season and his form, although not enough to keep them up, will surely force a Premier League move during the transfer window. He has netted ten goals in 34 games and can give his fans something to cheer as their stay in the top flight comes to an end.

Team News

Aston Villa have five injury concerns. Kieran Richardson, Libor Kozák, Nathan Baker, Ciaran Clark and Chris Herd are all unavailable. Sherwood will hope his side play with freedom and put last weekend’s result behind them.

Burnley have two absentees with Kevin Long and Dean Marney out. Other than that, Dyche has a full selection and has the opportunity to give some of the less regular members of his squad a final run-out.

Key Points

Aston Villa’s last five: L/L/L/W/D

Burnley’s last five: L/L/L/W/D

Key Stat: Burnley have failed to score in seven of their last eight games.

Key Player: Christian Benteke – The Belgian powerhouse is who Villa fans need to thank for their survival and he is now tipped for a big summer move.

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Score Prediction

Aston Villa 2-0 Burnley – Not much joy for Burnley here as Villa will ease to a final day victory

Liverpool closing in on Premier League goal-machine

Liverpool are closing in on Aston Villa‘s Christian Benteke as the striker is looking to force his way out of the club, according to the Sun.

Benteke has netted 13 goals in 28 Premier League appearances, recapturing the form he showed when he first signed for Villa in 2012.

Brendan Rodgers is expected to enter the summer transfer market in search of a goal-scorer as Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli have been linked with moves away from the club. Daniel Sturridge is expected to miss the start of the season so Rodgers will see his options severely limited.

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Villa boss, Tim Sherwood, is desperate not to lose his star-man but Benteke is reportedly set to double his wages if he secures a move to Merseyside.

Benteke’s current deal is set to expire in 2017 so any potential club will have to pay around £30 million to secure his services.

Would Benteke be a good signing for Liverpool?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Southampton vs Aston Villa

Competition: Premier League – Southampton vs. Aston Villa

Venue: St Mary’s Stadium – Saturday, May 16th – 12:45 BST (7:45 ET)

Match Odds: Southampton 4/5 – Draw 5/2 – Aston Villa 7/2

Match Preview

Aston Villa travel to St Mary’s knowing that a win against Southampton will guarantee top-flight football for another year.

The Saints are chasing their own ambitions however, as they close in on Europa League football. They are one point off Tottenham and will need a win to keep the pressure on Spurs going into the final weekend.

Southampton have been impressive this term despite their drop in form recently and have managed to only concede 12 goals at home in the Premier League, which is no mean feat.

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However, they haven’t registered a win in their last four and have conceded at least two in all of those matches, so Villa will feel confident ahead of this one.

Southampton’s home record in the Premier League: P18 – W10 – D4 – L4

Aston Villa have turned a corner under Tim Sherwood as they look more confident and hungry under the former Spurs boss, achieving a 55% win ratio in the Premier League alone.

When you add this to the matter of them being in the FA Cup final, few will argue what a great job Sherwood has done in such a short space of time as the Villains looked doomed at one point.

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Much of the recent form has been down to the scoring streak that Christian Benteke has put together, netting ten times in the league since Sherwood came in. A sensational return.

Aston Villa’s away record in the Premier League: P18 – W5 – D2 – L11

This being said, Villa have only managed to find the net 12 times away from home this season and will need to be at their best to beat the Saints on Saturday.

Team News

Southampton will be without Dusan Tadic, Jay Rodriguez, Morgan Schneiderlin, Emmanuel Mayuka and Fraser Forster. James Ward-Prowse is back in contention after serving a suspension. Kelvin Davis is expected to come in for Paulo Gazzaniga in goal.

Aston Villa will travel to Southampton without Chris Herd, Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker as all three are ruled out. Ashley Westwood should continue to keep Carlos Sanchez out of the side and Gabby Agbonlahor could be preferred to Charles N’Zogbia in attack.

Key Points

Southampton’s last five: W/L/D/L/L

Aston Villa’s last five: D/W/L/W/W

Key Stat: Villa have only lost once away at Southampton since November 2000, a 4-1 loss in 2012.

Key Player: Christian Benteke – The Belgian hit-man has been sensational as of late he will be expected to torture Southampton’s defence in this one.

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Score Prediction

Southampton 1-1 Aston Villa – With both teams needing a win, expect them to cancel each other out, as a draw looks the most likely result. A point for Villa should be enough to keep them out of any trouble on the last day, while Southampton will have all to play for should they avoid defeat themselves.

Chelsea set to make move for £30m Premier League star – report

Jose Mourinho is expected to bolster his Chelsea frontline this summer and a number of candidates have already been shortlisted. Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke is the latest to be linked with the new champions, according to Goal.com.

Benteke struggled in the first half of the season but has been rejuvenated under Tim Sherwood and his form looks like it could be enough to keep his side in the Premier League.

The Belgian powerhouse has netted 11 goals in his last nine games and is once again displaying that sensational form he showed when he first joined Villa.

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Chelsea’s forward line have struggled in stages this season, with injuries sidelining Diego Costa and Loic Remy, and Didier Drogba not able to contribute to the same levels as he once did.

Benteke could be a be a slight gamble for Chelsea given his drop in form earlier in the season, but he is a proven Premier League striker, and the service he would be on the receiving end of would be a dream for any centre-forward.

Sherwood isn’t going to let his star go easily, nor for a low fee, and it is reported that Villa will be holding out for around £30 million for the 24-year-old striker with Spurs, Manchester United and West Ham also linked.

Is Christian Benteke the man Chelsea need to bolster their forward line this summer?