After completion of match week 30 of the Premier League, two iconic clubs in English football face the scary prospect of relegation. Aston Villa, one of the five English teams to have won the European Cup and boasting of the 5th largest trophy cabinet amongst English teams, have played in the top division of English football for 104 seasons which is the second highest number of seasons. They were one of the founding members of the Football League back in the 19th century and the Premier League in 1992, having been in the top flight since 1988. However, after strong performances under Martin O’Neil, the club has been flirting with relegation since 2011-12, finishing 15th at best.
Newcastle United, a club from the North East, nearly won the Premier league in the mid-90s, and have 13 major honours to their name, including the UEFA Intertoto Cup back in 2006. Whilst they suffered relegation back in 2008-09, they bounced back within a season and even went as high as 5th back in 2011-12, yet it’s been all downhill for the club since. They have been flirting with relegation as well (much like their arch rivals Sunderland) but look more likely to be going down than their North-east neighbours.
What’s gone wrong for two iconic clubs in English football, who were a top half team prior to their faltering form over the last few seasons?
Like many Premier League teams, the owners and transfer committee have the final say. This removes the manager’s role in purchasing players for the benefit of the team. There’s also a tendency of buying young talent and then selling them when the stock is high.
Another problem is the loss of talent and experience. James Milner, Ashley Young, Christian Benteke were some of the losses experienced by Aston Villa over the last few seasons. From Newcastle, Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba, Ryan Taylor, Jonas Gutierrez and Ben Arfa were some of the talented players to leave. This problem has been compounded with the transfers during the 2015-16 season. Both teams spent heavily, with Newcastle spending close to 82 million quid. At least Aston Villa have had a much smaller net spend though with no core to build their team around, there’s bound to be instability.
There’s been instability on the managerial front as well. Following the dismissal of Alan Pardrew who was able to pull out results with a depleted squad post 2011-12, the managers for Newcastle have been worse. John Carver lost 13 out of 20 matches in charge. Till he was the manager, Steve McLaren won 7 , drew 6 and lost 18 matches.
At Villa, following the departure of O’Neill, Gerard Houllier who was hired left citing health reasons. Since then it has been all downhill. The hiring of Alex McLeish, a former Birmingham City manager was not helpful. Paul Lambert and Tim Sherwood who followed were unable to get the best out of the squad. Remi Garde seems to have taken reins of a sinking ship althoughto his credit, Villa seem a bit more combative in some matches. The white flag has, however been raised at Villa Park. Garde is giving match-day experience to Villa youngsters, indicating future preparations for life in the Championship.
At Villa, unless they miraculously win all 8 games, there is no way of seeing them escaping the drop. Newcastle are in a 3 way fight with Sunderland and Norwich to escape. The change of management for Newcastle, hiring Benitez might just be the last move for them to save themselves.
It’s unfortunate but unsurprising to see two of England’s most prestigious clubs falling to the second division.