Last season was abysmal, to say the least for everyone associated with Aston Villa. After finishing at the bottom of Premier League with 17 points, and only accumulating three wins, the villains were relegated to England’s second division for the first time in 29 years.
With a new and improved face in the Villa dugout in Roberto Di Matteo, promotion back to the top-flight looked a task very much within their grasp. However, no one could have imagined that 11 games in, the claret and blues would be sitting 19th in the table, only two points above the relegation zone.
Despite a busy summer in all departments, Villa seem to have retained the ghosts of last year. An opening day defeat to Sheffield Wednesday was quickly followed by a shocking League Cup exit at the first round stage, courtesy of League Two outfit Luton Town.
Notwithstanding a convincing 3-0 win over Rotherham three games later, Di Matteo’s side failed to win any of their next eight games, losing one and drawing seven.
The situation went from bad to worse for the Villans on Saturday when they were on the receiving end of a 2-0 deficit at the hands of Preston. The game ultimately proved to be Di Matteo’s last in charge of the promotion hopefuls.
The Italian tactician remained at the helm of affairs for little over four months only so many could see his sacking as a hasty decision. However, it is definitely a right call to get Villa back on track.
Di Matteo arrived at Villa Park with a history of success, so recent downfall is no less than a shocker for the Villa fans.
Having won the FA Cup and Champions League in his one-year reign as Chelsea boss, not to mention guiding West Brom to Premier League promotion back in 2010, Tony Xia seemed to have found the perfect man to get Villa back on winning terms.
However, that proved not to be the case.
With such a positive track record, why Di Matteo failed to reinvigorate the proceedings at the Villa Park?
Well, his dealings in the transfer window undoubtedly played a part. Having spent over £50million on summer signings, you would have thought Villa would be fighting at the higher end of the table.
Instead, they’re flirting with relegation again, and the finger must be pointed at Di Matteo for not bringing the right players to the club.
No doubt Ross McCormack and Jonathan Kodjia had a great season last campaign, but what Villa really needed was a goal scorer with Premier League experience.
Fellow relegated side Newcastle signed Crystal Palace forward Dwight Gayle of who was also on the Villa’s radar. The forward hit the ground running, already scoring seven goals this season and has had a significant influence on the Magpies’ solid start – not signing him was a big mistake on Di Matteo’s part.
After the 46-year-old faced the chop this week, the question now is, who will Villa turn to next to push them up the business end of the table?
Steve Bruce, who recently left Hull City, is currently the front-runner for the role and is definitely a man Xia should consider. Although formally of rivals Birmingham City, the 55-year-old knows what it takes to be successful, especially in the Championship.
Impressively, Bruce has succeeded England’s second division four times, guiding both Birmingham and Hull to promotion glory twice.
Aston Villa, who haven’t won an away game in over 420 days, were right to cut Di Matteo’s spell short but would be foolish not to consider the former Manchester United defender for their next boss; he is the right man to guide them back to the top flight.