Things aren't going too swimmingly up at Villa Park. With one Premier League in ten games, manager Tim Sherwood was given the heave-ho by the Aston Villa board on Sunday following on from a 2-1 home loss against Swansea City.
This leaves reliable Villa custodian Kevin McDonald to take the reins at St. Mary's as Villa make the trip down to the South Coast to take on Ronald Koeman's Southampton in their Capital One Cup Round of 16 clash.
St. Mary's Musings: Before the season started, what were your expectations and how do they compare to what you're feeling now?
Rory Skehan: Expectations were pretty bright ahead of the season, even after losing Benteke and Delph. We brought in a number of exciting, young players, and I think most fans were looking forward to something around a 14/15th place finish without having to worry about relegation. Now... it's all about survival. It's only October, and we're already fighting for our lives.
SMM: Tim Sherwood. What happened?
RS: Hooooooo boy. I could go on and on. He just doesn't have the tactical ability to manage in the Premier League. His starting 11's were eyebrow-raising and never consistent, his substitutions were poorly timed and terribly managed, and he just couldn't turn things around. I'll leave it at that.
SMM: Can you pinpoint what's going wrong at Villa?
RS: So much. That's not an overreaction, either. Tim Sherwood was a problem. A big problem, and costed us points. No doubt about it. But there's more. Assistant Ray Wilkins didn't do a damn thing, and as far as I'm concerned, he might be even more disappointing then Sherwood ended up being. The owner Randy Lerner wants to sell, our home form is atrocious, losing players like Benteke - the list goes on and on. It's no secret that Villa have been in trouble for years, with awful management under Lambert and McLeish, good players leaving and poor players inexplicably staying. Losing has become instilled in the front-office, players, managers, and worst of all, the fans. In a nutshell... A lot. A lot has gone wrong.
SMM: How do you think Kevin McDonald will treat the League Cup? Will you field a strong side?
RS: Right, back to football. Apologies for the rant above. I'm not quite sure what to expect. Our "strong side" isn't even a strong side. McDonald has worked with the youth side for the majority of his career, and he's very good at it, so I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a few of them in there. But I think he's more likely to simply rotate the squad, giving the fringe players a run out while the first-team gets a rest. Advancing in the cup would be lovely, of course, but it's 100% about the Premier League now.
SMM: Despite the pessimism surrounding Villa's current position, is there any players at the club impressing you and other fans?
RS: Absolutely. Amongst all the doom and gloom, Villa do have talent. Jack Grealish and Carles Gil show marvelous class with the ball at their feet, and a number of the new faces from the summer (Gueye, Amavi, Ayew) have shown glimpses of the young, talented footballers that they truly are.
SMM: Remi Garde is being linked to the new job at Villa. Is he the right fit? If not, who would you want to replace Sherwood?
RS: My knowledge of Remi Garde is completely based on recent articles I've read once Sherwood was given the boot, but from everything I've heard, he would be a great candidate. He's definitely one of the more exciting prospects out there, and would give Villa some much needed hope for the future. Rodgers and Moyes have been linked, and both would be quality options, but I'm guessing Rodgers wouldn't want a relegation battle so soon after escaping the pressure of Liverpool, and Moyes is still employed in Spain by Real Sociedad, so he might not even be available. There's absolutely no way it'll be Gus Poyet.
SMM: As an outsider, what do you think of Southampton as a club?
RS: I love watching Southampton. Their ascent into the Premier League has been fantastic to watch, and the way their youth system is set up is first-class. The style of football, the personalities, St. Mary's; there's definitely a lot to like about the Saints. I think it says a lot that I have the maximum 3 Southampton players in my fantasy squad and 0 Villa players.
SMM: There has been talk from Villa fans about the sensibly-priced tickets for the game on Wednesday. What's your perspective on this?
RS: I wholeheartedly agree, and every football fan would as well. It's saying something that when I see £12 for a ticket, I think it's a great deal, when in reality, it should just be the norm. More clubs should follow your example, without a doubt. Just another reason to like Southampton!
SMM: If you could sell any regular starter from Villa, who would it be and why?
RS: We paid actual money for Joleon Lescott, and he's been absolutely atrocious in the few months he's been here.
SMM: If you could sign any Saints player, who would it be and why?
RS: We'd be happy with literally anyone. Any of your starting 11 and some of your bench would go straight into our lineup. We'd love to have an experienced center-back, so Fonte is an option. Wanyama would make our midfield an actual midfield, Mane and Tadic are exciting, Ward-Prowse is one of my favorite young players. But I'd definitely go with Pelle, as he could help fill the void left by Benteke.
SMM: Finally, what is your prediction for the score on Wednesday night?
Saints win 3-1, but I expect (and demand) that Villa will be properly embarrassed with what the club has become, and will at least give it a go.
You can read the Q&A we did for 7500 to Holte here