Stiliyan Petrov is unsurprised by Aston Villa's struggles in the Premier League this season, believing questionable recruitment is a main factor.
Villa sit 18th in the table ahead of Manchester United's visit on Thursday, with Dean Smith's side four points off safety.
However, ex-Villa captain Petrov is in no way surprised by the club's perilous position, and the former midfielder cited the recruitment of inexperienced players as a major issue for Villa.
"I'm not surprised. I remember at the start of the season saying it was a big task for them," Petrov told Stats Perform News.
"Recruitment and prep, they were way behind everybody else. It was expected. It doesn't look promising.
"[These are] challenging times for the club and for fans, like me. I hope the boys can pick it up enough to stay up, but with Watford winning [on Tuesday] our task is more difficult.
"Villa signed a lot of promising players, but inexperienced players. It took me two years to adapt to the league from Celtic, so you can see where the trouble is.
"The problem is scoring goals. You can let them in but if you don't create opportunities then it's very difficult.
"I don't know what plan they have, but I hope we can stay up. Getting back up will be difficult."
Petrov also acknowledged it will be a challenge for Villa to keep hold of their key performers should they fail to beat the drop, using England international Tyrone Mings as an example.
"He's been a very good addition to the club," Petrov said of the defender, who joined from Bournemouth in 2019 following a successful loan spell at Villa Park.
"He's shown he's improving. He wants to be a leader; he likes to be a leader.
"It will be difficult to keep hold of him if we go down, he is an asset and some people will look to buy. I know we've lost a lot of games, but his individual performances and development have been well ahead of everyone else."