Are Aston Villa a single half team? In a new column, that doesn’t even have a name yet, we look at the trends that seem to be afflicting the Villa this season.
Aston Villa: the sit back merchants
Before the crucial 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Tuesday, Villa were beginning to rediscover their famous knack of letting points slip out of their own hands.
Just what is it with the claret and blues? Yes, Paul Lambert’s men held on at Liverpool in what was their last win before the triumph at Selhurst Park – but that was three months ago (too bloody long) and recent results have suggested that, quite simply, Villa struggle to see a game out.
However, since that barren run of six-straight defeats Villa have rallied somewhat. Take the Tottenham game for example, Villa were great value for their 1-0 lead until they hit the self-destruct button. That defeat, thinking back, is still a sore one now.
It was the in-form West Ham up next and thanks to Brad Guzan’s heroics we came away with a much-needed point – stopping the rot in the process.
It wasn’t long before Villa hit that self-destruct button again, though. A second goal in each of the Southampton and Burnley games and you’re looking at six points. Did I mention scoring two goals? Wow, I actually did…
The Saints and Burnley second-half capitulations lead this post perfectly to the next issue: shooting ourselves in the foot.
Europa League, we’re having a laugh
How’s this for an eye-opener… Villa are fifth in the half-time Premier League table, which as you’re probably aware, is a Premier League table based on scores up until half-time.
Just imagine if Lambert decided to go out and get a second. Yes, we’d be left vulnerable at the back but isn’t that what defenders are paid to do? To defend and to defend well.
Just imagine once Villa went a goal up, they smelt blood and got that all-important second to kill the game.
Just imagine if the players trusted their ability and gave the opposition something to think about – even if it’s a 10 minute spell of high pressing and being more ambitious in front of goal.
And while we’re at it, isn’t football an entertainment business? I for one would love to see more 3-2 thrillers like in eras gone by (Gregory and O’Neill)… I’d even accept it if Villa lost, as long as they had a right good go (the real meaning of the phrase, not the Lambert one).
The Tottenham and Hull City fixtures aside, when was the last time you walked out of a game and said: ‘We had a right good go today, from start to finish’?
Here’s a question for you: Villa’s solitary home win this season was against Hull in September. Who was the last team Villa put to the sword at Villa Park before that?*
Unlucky Lambert or Lions showing resurgence?
There seems a real divide amongst supporters with regards to the manager. According to reports fans were fighting with each other during the Burnley game on Saturday. It was pro Lambert realists vs the radical ‘Lambert Out’ brigade.
Even at the Palace game, there was an uncomfortable atmosphere brewing as the game went on. Fans calling for Villa to stop sitting back and to be more adventurous. Others saying: ‘We’re doing all right, get off their backs’.
I had an annoying supporter next to me, for example. The fans groaned at a slashed panic clearance from Tom Cleverley and he turned around and said sarcastically: ‘That’s Lambert’s fault that is?’ This p***** me off somewhat and I duly returned the sarcastic jibe: ‘Yeah, Cleverley’s been a brilliant buy – he’s a top player…’
I know he’s been lacking in confidence but us Villa fans expected better and still do. £7 million in January? No thanks. £3-4 million? That’s more like it.
Anyway, back to the matter in hand and the question is: Has Lambert been unlucky up until now or are Villa, with the return of Benteke, coming good at the right time?
At the time of writing Villa are just a point off Roberto Martinez’s Everton in 12th. Staying positive, the claret and blues are just four points off Arsenal and six points off Swansea in sixth.
The biggest test for Lambert’s Lions is coming up when they entertain rock-bottom Leicester City at Villa Park on Sunday, December 7. Not only a must win, but it’s a chance for back-to-back wins for the first time since March when they beat Norwich and Chelsea 4-1 and 1-0 respectively. Two great performances.
After that its local neighbours West Brom at The Hawthorns.
Since my last post, I always said that it would be this mini five-game run of games – starting with Southampton and ending with West Brom – that would determine whether Lambert would be in a job for Christmas.
And at the moment he’s delivering after going four games unbeaten. However, we’re halfway through these vital run of games and three points on Sunday would go a hell of a long way in easing the pressure.
Let’s stay positive, Villa fans. Benteke is back and looks frightening once again; the defence looks the strongest it’s been for a while; and we’re starting to look upwards not downwards.
Yes, performances have to improve, but at the moment results are the priority to at least allow us to smile again over the Christmas period after an Autumn of doom and gloom.
Happy December and UTV!
*Funnily enough it was Hull City on May 3. Goals from Ashley Westwood and an Andi Weimann brace tamed the Tigers that day.
Follow Ashley on Twitter – @Ashley_Preece
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