The Remi Garde era begins at Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon and the Frenchman could not ask for a tougher task as his new side take on top-of-the table Manchester City.
Defeat to the league leaders could see them end the weekend as many as seven points from safety with less than a third of the season played, though with another twenty-six games after this one, Garde will be confident that he will be able to get the Midlands outfit out of trouble.
The Villains have taken just one point since their opening day win against newly promoted Bournemouth, who themselves are one of the sides the Claret and Blue army will be competing against in their very own ‘mini-league’.
Beating your contemporaries
North East duo Sunderland and Newcastle, who accompanied Villa in the relegation zone ahead of game-week eleven are also fighting to get themselves out of trouble at this relatively early juncture and Garde will get his chance to pick his wits against Messrs Allardyce and McClaren in the coming weeks.
However, after such a slow start to the campaign Villa are unsurprisingly odds on to be relegated to the Championship, with a price of 7/4 on offer for them to beat the drop.
A wave of optimism
Football fans on the whole are optimistic, and the Villa faithful that I know have continued to go to B6 and beyond to support their largely underachieving club.
Once Champions of Europe, Villa have averaged the thirty-nine points in each of their last four seasons while they haven’t won any silverware in almost twenty years.
To have any chance of achieving anyway near that tally of points this season, the side will need to piece together a winning run, though the recent history is not on the club’s side.
None of Villa’s last four managers were able to string together more than two consecutive league victories with Martin O’Neill the last to achieve that feat five years ago.
O’Neill took the club to three consecutive sixth place finishes towards the end of the last decade and while that is almost certainly out of the question this season, they might just have appointed the man who could take them to those kinds of heights once more in the long term.
A winning pedigree
Garde’s only previous managers job was at Ligue One side Lyon, finishing fourth, third and fifth in his three seasons in charge with an overall win rate of over fifty percent.
He also guided them to success in the 2012 Coupe de France while as player he was part of the Arsenal squad that won the Premier League in the 1997/98 season under Arsene Wenger, who was keen for the former midfielder to take the reins at Villa Park.
A home visit from the Gunners is among Garde’s opening five matches in charge, though three of the four games after that tough start are against teams who are currently in the bottom five.
It will be vital for Villa to bank wins in that run and if they do so, and also enjoy a bounce that many sides do when they change the man in the dugout, they might just maintain their ever-presence in the Premier League.
Can Remi Garde keep Aston Villa in the Premier League?