A derby defeat was followed by vague rumours of an American takeover bid? Settle down, class, and see what lessons Villa fans learned from this week…
The Villa v WBA derby wasn’t a game for the neutral to get excited about once it actually started, but with both teams lacking real quality on the day (and Villa’s quality sitting on the bench for most of the game) it was settled by an appropriately scrappy goal.
Strangely it didn’t look too much more difficult for Villa after they were reduced to 10 men (more on Richardson below) but they stopped trying to win and the foreshadowing of PL’s team talk at the end (“A point away from home is massive in this league, etc”) Villa were settled in for a 0-0… then left it until the death to go for it in a way Villa fans haven’t seen very often under Lambert at all, what with Guzan trying to pull a Peter Schmeichel and all.
But Villa were undone by some suspensions and the law of averages. Benteke can drift in an out of games, but against the Albion he let chances go begging (“Missing chances is massive in this league”) and showed his undoubted class only in small increments and sadly, not in front of goal. Without that reliability, Villa looked lost with Gabby doing the hard part but not having the final ball in him and N’Zogbia having a real stinker, especially with his crosses.
But he was probably due a bad game. He’s come back from injury and has been burdened, once again, with the task of scoring the goals that will keep Villa secure. I doubt the derby game pressure got to him, and while not making too many excuses for him, the service was pretty awful and the WBA defenders did a pretty good job of bottling him up.
Alan Hutton’s performance is probably more related to the derby day syndrome. The Albion wingers were enjoying pulling off their party tricks to make him frustrated (perhaps in an attempt to get him booked: mission accomplished) and winding up the crowd. He also wasn’t getting much help from the midfielders in front of him. Let’s just put it down to a bad day at the office – which we’ve had before, and WON – and hope it all goes right against Manchester United.
Keiran Richardson might not have the injury woes of Cole or Senderos, but he also isn’t as good. When PL went to the fire sale and picked up these flawed goods, KR wasn’t plagued with brittle bones but he was a long way removed from multi-million pound moves and England caps.
His dangerous tackle, perhaps fuelled by playing against his former club, cost Villa dearly – but probably cost Richardson just as dearly in the long-run.
Given a rare start with midfielders suspended and injured, a good performance could have seen him really challenge for a starting spot over Christmas. But he’s gone and blown it and even though he was a Lambert signing, he may be moving down the pecking order – even as far as the bomb squad – if midfield reinforcements arrive in January.
As with Benteke, you have to take your chances when you get them.
Twitter rumours of a new shirt deal (sadly with another gambling company and not Microsoft) and a potential owner haven’t led to anything concrete other than a denial of sorts, followed by a smiley face, from Mark Cuban’s official tweeter account.
Cuban would probably make a fine owner – he loves to win and when attending Dallas Mavericks games he is as passionate a fan as you can see in the arena. He yells at refs, he high-fives his own players and talks trash to opponents. Oh, and he has some deep pockets. Certain fans like him already, to the point where they refuse to believe this rumour might not be true.
Unfortunately, like all the other ownership rumours that have preceded it, once made it up, they spread mainly due to wishful thinking.
WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY?
Villa chief executive Tom Fox gave a largely puff-piece interview about Villa’s ambitions this week: aiming for a 7th or 8th place finish every year, European football inside three years, Lambert and Lerner talk all the time, no Holte End renaming (but maybe the North Stand)…
Here’s some advice from the fans. You want to win over the doubters, restore some credibility, and get people excited to come to Villa games? Win something. And what could be a better target this year than the FA Cup? Cynicism aside, a tie against lower league opposition with Benteke back and perhaps a new player or two could start a real upturn. Also: start Grealish in the FA Cup and let him make some mistakes because that’s how he’ll learn.
There has to be a point to Villa beyond survival…Lambert has a chance to win a trophy that has eluded the club since 1957 and nurture a homegrown star into a winner, if he just goes into the FA Cup this year without trepidation and shows some swagger.
If you trace the draw in the last couple of FA Cups after Villa had been knocked out by lower league opposition, they would have got to Wembley before being drawn against a team they would have been an underdog against, ala Lambert’s first League Cup run that saw Villa fall to Bradford City.
Regardless of any mitigating circumstances that are trotted out to defend Lambert, the truth is he’s squandered several potential trips to Wembley that a well-organised team could have achieved without breaking too much sweat.
I mean, if you’re not getting drawn against Manchester United in the FA Cup third round like we used to do, you might as well take advantage of it!
The FA Cup still means so much to the fans and I’m sure PL would like to go down in Villa history alongside fellow Premier League managers Ron Atkinson and Brian Little who went to Wembley and won.