Aston Villa boss Tim Sherwood fancies his chances of improving his side’s fortunes this season after seeing his troops finish the previous campaign one place above the drop zone, telling AVTV:
“An improvement on last year is what we’re looking for. It won’t be hard to improve because we are the worst team left in the league (following the relegation of Burnley, Hull and QPR).”
Despite Sherwood’s declarations, a price of 11/4 makes the Villans one of the frontrunners for relegation this season, whereas a meaty 5/1 doubts they can break into the division’s top half.
It’s far more likely, according to the bookies, that the second city outfit will actually fare worse this time around, as opposed to scale the ladder, suggesting Sherwood has actually underestimated the magnitude of the task at hand.
Here’s why improving Villa will be more difficult than he envisages:
The lifeblood of the team resides elsewhere.
Talisman Christian Benteke and skipper Fabian Delph have had their release clauses activated and subsequently left Villa Park.
Other casualties include defensive staple Ron Vlaar, Tom Cleverley, who flourished in midfield under Sherwood and veteran keeper Shay Given, the keeper often preferred to first choice Brad Guzan by the former Spurs boss.
Carving a coherent unit capable of bettering the efforts managed last term amidst these key departures will be a sizeable challenge.
Doing so with a raft of Premier League novices will make it even tougher.
Over £30m has been splurged to replace the horde of outbound assets, yet of the nine new arrivals, only four – Micah Richards, Scott Sinclair, Mark Bunn and Rudy Gestede – have sampled the English top-flight before.
The final member of the quartet is little more than a rookie with just three divisional appearances to his name.
Should he, plus compatriot Jordan trio Amavi, Veretout and Ayew, who all have central roles to fulfill this term, struggle to acclimatise, a sub-17th finish is possible.
Those promoted from the Championship have invested heavily.
Bournemouth and Watford have recruited a combined 17 players as they attempt to follow Leicester’s lead from the year before.
The Foxes used their considerable wealth to make nine summer signings and the end result was Premier League survival.
While Villa certainly can’t be slighted for failure to address quantity issues, the Cherries and Hornets can expect to be competitive after bolstering their squad to such an extent.
The same couldn’t be said of Burnley and QPR following their off-season exploits ahead of the 2014/15 edition.