Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa Long Ball Project: Are Villa the new Stoke?

aston villa long ball

Is Paul Lambert regressing from his Aston Villa passing evolution?


‘The problem is that these tactics are at least ten years out of date.’



Bright Passing Future

Last season Upton Park reverberated to the dulcet tones of, “We’re passing the ball, we’re passing the baallll, we’re Aston Villa, we’re passing the ball”.  

Villa’s performance in the first 60 minutes against West Ham last season promised so much.  A birth of a new team, a possession based youth revolution and the hope that academy and youth players could be inter-mingled into an exciting forward thinking side.

Unfortunately, the display at Upton Park this season couldn’t have been any more different.  What is disappointing now is that the team suffered a lot last season trying to play properly, pass and move and play as a team.  This season it seems that Lambert has effectively thrown away all the hard work he did last season and reverted back to a (McLeish) team that sits and waits for a counter attack.

People always tell me, “Swansea and Southampton have been trying to play their passing style for years which is why they can do it easily now.”  OK, fine.  But Saints and Swans also had to endure a tough first season implementing their style and suffered some dispiriting defeats.  If Villa don’t start trying to play properly now, then when?

Villa’s first season under Lambert was an example of trying to play properly and suffering, and so was Villa’s season under Gerard Houllier where Houllier made some tough decisions in defence of a possession based philosophy.   Houllier was looking to bring experience to the midfield with Makoun and the proposed acquisition of Cabaye to supplement Villa’s academy players, and Houllier used a temporary solution in Robert Pires to fill the void.  People seem to forget than Martin O’Neill left the club just days before the transfer window closed, which gave Houllier no time to bring in players.

Aston Villa Long Ball Addiction

What Swansea and Saints didn’t do was abandon their possession based style in the second season as Villa have done this season.  This is the second time Villa abandoned some very important groundwork.  McLeish ripped up Houllier’s blue print and notably brought back old -fashioned cloggers like Warnock, Dunne and Collins.  Lambert also appears to have tossed away his script from last season by choosing to field three defensive midfielders and two big men up front – Tony Pulis style.  The problem is that these tactics are at least ten years out of date.

Lambert said after Villa’s latest trip to the Boleyn Ground, “There’s more to us than just counter attacking, we can play.”  However, Villa have some of the worst possession stats in the Premier League this season, and had Lambert wanted to progress his possession based ground work from last season, then surely he would have concentrated on improving central midfield rather than buying two more strikers.  The quicker Villa return to possession based, passing football (probably after January as we have no attacking midfield players) the better.

For those who say that we lost 1 – 0 last season against West Ham and we should be happy with 0 – 0 and a clean sheet. First observation, we didn’t have Benteke last season in this fixture.  In addition, West Ham had no strikers yesterday until Carlton Cole came on in the second half.  Furthermore, Villa had a bench in 2012 of Bannan, Lichaj, Gardner, Burke, Weimann and Herd….all academy players.  This season Villa’s bench was Helenius, Herd, Bowery, Tonev, Kozak and Johnson.  West Ham had lost their previous three home games before Villa arrived yesterday and the Hammers had several players missing.  Yet, Villa enjoyed 40% of possession and effectively ‘parked the bus‘.

Lambert was asked a tactical question at the end of Villa’s first half performance, ‘The team cannot keep the ball well and is also not creating chances?‘.  Lambert’s answer to the problem? “Kozák”.

Just what happened to Lambert’s promising Villa evolution?

*What’s your views on the recent trend of Aston Villa long ball tactics? Please comment below. UTV


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