According to a report from the Telegraph, a rift has formed in the Aston Villa squad, with some players openly questioning manager Rémi Garde and others backing him. Here, for the sake of easy reference, is the order of battle:
"Broadly the squad is split into two camps: on one side the long-serving players such as Gabby Agbonlahor, Alan Hutton, Leandro Bacuna, Ciaran Clark, Brad Guzan, Mark Bunn as well as Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards. On the other side are the new arrivals, many of them from France, including Jordan Ayew, Idrissa Gana and Jordan Veretout as well as Aly Cissokho."
Now, let's get the obvious out of the way. Making half of the squad dislike you because of training that doesn't seem relevant and a frequent reluctance to appear in the dressing room after matches is probably bad managing. Garde has been unable to really get the best out of Aston Villa since he arrived. As it stands, there strike me as three possibilities to explain what has happened since Garde arrived. The first, and perhaps easiest, is that Garde is just not a good manager. I don't buy this one. Mostly because I'm not sure if anyone could have gotten results from this dung heap.
The second possibility is related to the first: the players are simply unable to do what Garde wants. If that's the case, then Garde may have a keen managerial mind but may be using it in the wrong place. On a squad for whom "give 100%" seems to be a revolutionary idea, perhaps high-minded football wouldn't work.
Finally, we've got the option of the players being unwilling to do what Garde wants done. My best guess is that its somewhere in between options two and three. Clearly, as noted in the list above, he has supporters on the team. Logically, those players WOULD want to do what Garde wants, but may not be able to do it well. His detractors, on the other hand, may simply dislike him and not want to work hard for a man who is leading a doomed campaign.
To me, though, the most interesting part of all of this is who is and isn't supporting Garde. Take a look at those two groups. If you told me right now that I could only keep one around for next year and beyond, I would choose the group that is supporting Garde every time. Gabby Agbonlahor, Brad Guzan, Alan Hutton, and Micah Richards were all poor under other managers as well, and have all shown a sharp decline in their abilities. Ciaran Clark and Leandro Bacuna are likable enough, but they're easily replaced. And Joleon Lescott is too busy tweeting with his arse for me to care about.
But the other group? Ayew? Gana? Veretout? Even (gasp) Cissokho? These are the players who still look to be giving a full effort on the pitch. These are the young players with the potential to develop. These are players who could actually become something. These are not, in short, a bunch of has-beens who currently are for Aston Villa.
If that seems harsh, it probably is. But hey, it's the players who started choosing sides. I'm just following suit. Those who dislike Garde so much should feel free to leave. Take your wages elsewhere and deal with your massive egos that are collapsing under you quickly deflating ability. I'll take my chances in the Championship with young, eager players who look ready to improve.
And if you're looking for public sympathy, you won't find it. Especially with Lescott in your camp. The man who tweeted a photo of a car, admitted to giving a less-than-full effort, and then lied to us all. Fans aren't happy with any aspect of this team right now, but the grouping of Guzan-Richards-Lescott-Hutton makes this a pretty easy choice for most of us. The whole team has been terrible this year, but at least most of the others have at had the decency to make it look as if they care.
God what a garbage pile.
UPDATE: The club have categorically denied the initial report. We've got their quotes right here.