By Amir Mir

Paul Merson has expressed his “worry” for Aston Villa as they continue to struggle in the second tier of English football.

Fan favourite Merson delivered a no-holds-barred verdict on his former side as he believes the players are starting to “melt” under the pressure.

Merson believes the players Villa are buying are used to playing under smaller crowds and as a result cannot handle the expectations at their new club.

He compared them to League Two side Portsmouth, who get an average crowd of 16,000 in the fourth tier, with the majority of the teams recording way under ten thousand.

Villa have averaged a tad over 32,000 in the second tier this term, but they did record their lowest crowd of the season during their 3-1 home loss against Barnsley on Tuesday night.

Subscribe to Football Insider TV now

“I worry for Villa,” Merson told TalkSport. “I’m a massive fan of Steve Bruce, when he got the job, I thought, ‘brilliant, he’ll sort this out’. I think there is a lot more to do than what he thought.

“This advantage you have with teams like this and you have it with at Portsmouth as well, you go and buy players who have played for lesser teams and have played under smaller crowds.

“Then they go and sign for someone like Portsmouth who get 16,000 when these players have played under two thousand. They cannot handle it and that is the problem you are having at Villa.

“They are buying players that have played under seven or eight thousand, all of a sudden you turn up at Villa, it’s 30 thousand, at least, they cannot handle it and are a bad of nerves.

“If they are not 1-0 up within 20 minutes, the crowd get restless, the players start to melt and all of a sudden they start getting picked off for fun.”

Villa are currently on a four-game losing streak and are falling down the Championship table at an alarming rate.

They take on league leaders Newcastle on Monday night, knowing a defeat could see their seven-point difference compared to the bottom three decrease.

Since their relegation from the Premier League last term, Villa have had two managers, firstly Roberto Di Matteo and now Bruce who was appointed in October.

Between them they have purchased 17 players over the summer and winter transfer windows, spending over £80million.

In other Aston Villa news, this attacking duo could be axed for the Newcastle clash.

We’ve launched an << EXCLUSIVE TRANSFER WINDOW NEWS FEED>>. ‘Like Us’ on Facebook by clicking here if you want 24/7 updates on all Aston Villa transfer news