It was supposed to be a baptism of fire for Remi Garde as he took charge of his newly-inherited Aston Villa squad for the first time. Against the league’s title favourites, the former Lyon manager was meant to be shown first-hand how hard his new job is, but succeeded in raising hope around the club instead.
Without a win since the opening day of the season and rooted to the foot of the Premier League table, Villa defied the form book to keep Manchester City – the division’s highest scorers – at bay for a treasured point in a goalless draw.
While the result may inject some belief that the Villans can escape relegation, which Ladbrokes make them 2/5 second favourites for, aspects of the performance will act as a reminder that the Midlands outfit are still buried deep in the woods.
City stars Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne were guilty of squandering golden opportunities in the second half, while the hosts failed to register a shot on target for the first time in a league outing since they were managed by Paul Lambert in August 2014.
It would be irrational to expect a side so out of kilter to be rampant against such strong opposition, but as the joint-lowest scorers in the top-flight, Villa’s lack of attacking impetus should be a high-priority area for Garde to fix.
In isolation, the guts on display against City can be used as a solid block to build a survival surge on, but it can’t be offered as convincing evidence that the club’s top-flight status is assured.
There is often a lift in performance levels immediately after a new manager takes charge of a team, so how effective Garde is at raising Villa will only become clear in time.
A favourable set of fixtures, which sees just two top-six sides line up against the strugglers between now and the New Year, offers the Frenchman a chance to pick up points. Should he find an attacking flair to match the endeavour on display against the Citizens, he may well be on to something.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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