By Adam Keeble
As faith in Lambert slips to a very vocal low point, a new player arrives, but a run of tough games lies in store. Here’s what we’ve learnt this week as Aston Villa Fans…
PASS PASS LUMP
One of the key reasons Lerner gave when firing former Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish was a lack of “compelling play and results that instil a sense of confidence that Villa (is) on the right track.” He lasted 11 months in the job and won seven league games during his tenure in the 2011-12 season. McLeish’s qualifications included two titles in the SPL with Rangers, and even a spell as the Scottish national manager before arriving at St. Andrews and yo-yo-ing up and down between the top flight and the Championship. He also won the league cup with the Blues, albeit in one of the jammiest displays ever seen at Wembley. None of that mattered in the end – results and long-term confidence weren’t there.
It seems that win-or-be-fired attitude has changed.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for many fans was the disjointed, appalling display against Leicester. The passing and moving, with very few exceptions, was limited to the two-thirds of the field where the Foxes didn’t mind Villa having the ball. The build-up was so slow, by the time the final ball was due, Leicester had plenty of players behind the ball and the result was not a clean, intelligent, incisive through ball to a hungry forward. It was a hoof ball aimed who-knows-where and ending up on a Leicester forehead or in the stands.
Given that Lerner may well have had a word with Lambert about the style of play, let alone how ineffective it is (after all, what else could he be discussing during their Lambert-reported regular conversations?) that might be a significant reason for the style-change. Except, frankly, there hasn’t really been one. It’s not keep-away football if the other team isn’t chasing for it and is prepared to let you have it. Knocking the ball back to the keeper from the halfway line is not patient build-up when you don’t have any other options in front of you. It’s polishing an old car and saying “never mind how the engine runs… look at the shine on that bodywork!”
Fans preferred the new passing attitude but the Leicester game exposed it as a sham. Lambert ignored the possession numbers until he suited him to point to them.
Absolutely numbers can be deceptive, but the number fans are starting to worry about is somewhere between 18th and 20th. And the current playing style won’t help achieve that as our opponents have already figured it out. Without the right players, it’s not going to work… oh, wait!
ONE-GIL TO THE VILLA BOYS
Not surprisingly, fan opinion on new signing Carles Gil has been mixed. The well-circulated video clip of him at work shows him in a positive light, but never tackled, and not once providing a goal or an assist. But he has some much needed flair, although the stoppers in the English league will have him in their sights and he can probably expect a Grealish-Against-Hull warm welcome when he makes his debut (which might amount to 10 minutes against Liverpool, but surely Lambert can’t consider him to start given his past history of insisting young players need to earn their place – what can he prove in the new few days in training that will have Lambert displace loanee Cleverley?)
The fact selling club Valencia reportedly included a buy-back clause means they rate him highly enough to have the option of bringing him back. But he wasn’t considered good enough for them (he had been on loan at Elche) yet, that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute towards Villa’s cause very soon indeed.
Yes, he could be the second coming of Tonev, or be given a chance before his time, then sat on the bench with Grealish, like Bacuna has been doing since last season. But creative expectations from this squad aren’t high so any flair or passion will be a nice touch and a step in the right direction.
So, Villa fans have learned there is some money in the bank for the right (young, cheap, potentially just what we need) player, despite what we have been led to believe.
PROTESTS AND DEMONSTRATIONS
More reports of Villa fans turning on Villa fans after the mess against Leicester seem to show that for some, enough is enough (Mat Kendrick’s editorial in the Birmingham Mail spells it out and his job is a delicate balance of telling it like it is and diplomacy).
A planned 8-minute demonstration in the Holte End may or may not be a success, but the point is bigger than what happens on the day. Not all fans are supporting such a radical move but there are enough fans that have had enough, and are being driven to conceive unthinkable things in order to make their point.
Just the notion of the demonstration has got the media talking about Villa supporters not being content with what they’re suffering. And there’s sympathy there.
Remember this: the people who are considering not entering Villa Park against Liverpool for the first eight minutes of the game are supporters. They support the club, which is why they’re doing it. Just like the supporters who will not take part because they want to prove they are behind the team. We all want the same thing – we want our Villa back.
Ciaran Clark is proof that Villa fans can forgive and forget. Some of his play against Leicester must have had him in consideration for Man-Of-The-Match (until his sending off which was irrelevant to the score). He was composed, confident and he led the backline like a boss.
Rewind to last season and he and Baker were being told in no uncertain terms that they were the root of all Villa’s failings and should be given away to anyone that would take them. That’s not to say they were tremendous players last season and were responsible for some defensive howlers, but they have both put enough good shifts in when they’ve been fit to show they are Villa and are prepared to fight for the cause. And the fans appreciate it. Supporting Villa is a two-way relationship. His suspension will hurt Villa in the tough run ahead.
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