By SFC Media time Thu 03 Dec Club

Ahead of Saturday’s Barclays Premier League clash with Aston Villa, got the lowdown on Southampton’s opponents from the Press Association’s Midlands football reporter Nick Mashiter

How would you sum up Villa’s season so far?

A struggle – which is probably an understatement. My fear was always that the players they brought in during the summer would need time, but they actually needed to come in and hit the ground running. Nobody was denying they needed an overhaul, but have they recruited in the right way? I think you’ve got to ask questions about that. That’s been the knock-on effect to them struggling, Tim Sherwood getting the sack and Rémi Garde coming in. It’s not a surprise to see them struggling, but it is a surprise to see them almost cut adrift. Losing Christian Benteke, Fabian Delph, Ron Vlaar and essentially Shay Given, who was the number-one keeper at the end of last season, those guys are almost irreplaceable.

What impact has Rémi Garde had since being appointed manager last month?

I think people have been quite impressed with his direction, shall we say. He’s come in and he’s got a plan. He knows exactly what he wants to do. You just hope he’s got time to do it and the players to do it, because with every passing game at the moment they’re getting more and more adrift and desperate to get these points.

What is Villa’s style of play like at the moment?

The first game under Garde, against Man City, when they got a 0-0 draw, they had to batten down the hatches and ride their luck a little bit. They look more of a team, they look more tactically aware and together. They have a bit more of an attacking threat, but on Saturday against Watford (in a 3-2 home defeat) it was just switching off and defensive errors, as well as a bit of bad luck. As well as Garde’s done to try and bind them and get him to play his way, they’re being undermined by the errors and the fragility at the back at the moment.

Who are the team’s key players?

Jordan Amavi, at left-back, was one of them, and then he got injured for the rest of the season sadly. Idrissa Gana has probably been the pick of the bunch consistently in midfield. Jordan Ayew scored against Watford and has looked bright in fleeting bits up front, but at the minute you’re struggling to hang your hat on anybody, and that’s the worrying thing.

How do you see the game going?

Southampton will be favourites, naturally. Obviously, they’ve already beaten Villa once at home already this season, in the Capital One Cup, but Villa’s run has got to end some time. I think Southampton fans will probably see a different Villa side to the one they saw previously, so I don’t think it’s completely cut and dried, but you’d still make them heavy favourites.

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