As Aston Villa find themselves in transition (yet again), David O'Leary has decided to take it out on his central-defenders.
In the firing line are Olof Mellberg and Liam Ridgewell, the beleaguered centre backs, whose form has dipped alarmingly and who should fear for their first-team places.
Villa are fifth to bottom in the Premiership, are conceding goals at a worrying rate and are now the subject of a takeover bid.
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O?Leary, the Villa manager, watched in despair as his defenders virtually handed a 3-1 victory to Manchester City at Eastlands last Monday ? even Darius Vassell managed to score twice ? and surgery is required quickly.
O?Leary fears that, unless the situation quickly improves, then Villa will face a fight to avoid relegation. For sure, it is only November, but Villa are just two places and two points off the bottom three.
With Martin Laursen out until the summer with a knee injury and Mellberg and R i d g e w e l l struggling for form and as a partnership, the re-opening of the TRANSFER window in January cannot come soon enough for the manager.
O?Leary has been linked with a move for Nemanja Vidic, of Spartak Moscow, this week after undertaking a spying mission to Russia at the weekend.
But the future of the club is up in the air, with negotiations understood to start this week with Comer Homes Group, a property development company, regarding a #64 million buy-out.
Any takeover could lead to O?Leary receiving an increased transfer budget but, with just nine weeks to go until the transfer window, the clock is ticking.
O?Leary, who last night claimed the takeover speculation was proving ?unsettling?, said: ?I know what is needed. From day one this season, we have given away too many easy goals and made life very hard for ourselves and that is why we are where we are in the league.
?We are gifting teams big advantages and we are not good enough to give them those advantages and have to start pulling it back. There are a few things that are hard to take, particularly when I know what would put it right, but I can?t do anything about it.
?What the whole club needs is two solid centre-halves who can win the ball whenever it comes into our box. That gives everybody a lift ? all around the team.
?Manchester City had [ Sylvain] Distin who cost # 5 million, while Kevin Keegan paid #4 million for David Sommeil. Plus, at the other end, they were a threat from set-plays. Why weren?t we a threat from set-plays? Because we haven?t got powerful enough centre-halves.
?Does this surprise me? No. It?s been like a train coming to hit me in the face.?
O?Leary now has to prevent his side coming off the rails altogether and is demanding his players now ?stand up and be counted?, otherwise he fears the worst.
? Only time will tell whether we pull away or not,? O?Leary said. ?It is easy for me to say yes, but for us to pull away we have to start defending better.
?We have been our own worst enemy so far this season and that has to stop. I am aware of our problems ? now doing something about it is the thing.
?We?ve got to move on and life is going to be hard, particularly if we continue conceding the sort of goals we?re conceding at the moment.?
O?Leary, though, has been warned by Spartak they are determined to hang onto Vidic when the transfer window comes around.
?Vidic plays well for our club and for Serbia & Montenegro as well, so the interest in him is not unexpected,? Sergey Shavlo, the Spartak general manager, said.
?But we are not aware of any interest from Aston Villa as no-one has contacted us officially. Representatives from clubs in England and Italy come regularly to our matches, so there?s nothing new in that.
?Anyway, I would like to make it clear the club will do everything which is possible in order to keep Vidic at Spartak as he has a longterm contract with us.?