Premier League: Aston Villa vulnerable to the FA Cup final hangover

A sizable amount of the optimism that Tim Sherwood had inflated Aston Villa with since his appointment in February escaped following their emphatic 4-0 FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.

The underlying concern is that rather than acting as a springboard to greater glory, an FA Cup final appearance is usually an anchor to non-elite clubs, weighing them down for at least a year and sometimes even longer.

Hull, the team that Arsenal denied last May, were recently relegated to the Championship. 2012/13 winners Wigan were went down three days on from lifting the trophy and are now preparing for League One after dropping again this season.

Stoke coped fairly well, dropping just one league position in 2011/12. However, having finished 17th this term, even that would be too costly a drop-off for Aston Villa.

Portsmouth’s financially-accelerated decline began in the aftermath of their 2007/08 triumph, while West Ham almost paid for their 2006 final venture with demotion in 2007.

It is arguable that those sides were hindered as much by participating in the Europa League as they were by a hangover to the beyond-the-norm experience, and this isn’t something that Villa have to contend with due to a rule change stating that you have to win the FA Cup to qualify.

Yet with Christian Benteke’s agent publicising his client’s wish for European football, not competing could prove more problematic than being tasked with handling a bloated fixture list.

Their FA Cup progress was also masking the fact that their Premier League record under Sherwood hasn’t been all that special. Sixteen points from 13 games was considerably more than what Paul Lambert was serving, but it was certainly no better than average.

They closed the campaign in 17th place – their lowest rank since the top flight shrank to 20 teams in 1995/96 – and for the third time in four years failed to make it to 40 points, settling on 38 yet again.

It is therefore easy to understand how Sherwood came to diagnose a “losing mentality” at Villa Park. His decision to vocalise it is trickier to comprehend, given the limited upside to such statements and tendency for such things to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The 46-year-old made similar character-questioning comments after heavy defeats during his half-season in charge of Tottenham without it ever seeming to have a positive impact, so it is a worry to see him revisit that approach.

That leads neatly into the final alarm bell about what awaits Villa in 2015/16: Sherwood has never done this before. He has never organised a pre-season, he has never overhauled a squad (indeed, he has never even signed a player) and he has never had to fulfil his ambitious and ambiguous target to “make these players winners”.

If you doubt his ability to do so, you can back the midlanders at [5.1] to be relegated.