Two differing performances, the same inevitable result. Villa’s slide continued with defeats to runaway league leaders Chelsea and a poor Hull City side. But then came the long overdue news of Paul Lambert’s sacking, and from nowhere renewed hope has sprung. Here’s a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Villa’s last week both on and off the pitch.
It was encouraging to see Villa resolutely hold firm after conceding a soft early goal in the Chelsea game. The capitulation that I can only assume everyone was expecting never arrived; the midfield were impressive in refusing to be overrun by the away side’s vastly superior quality, and in fact Villa were just as in the game as Chelsea were – if not more so during certain periods.
The obvious major plus point was that rarest of things: a goal for Aston Villa Nil. Sorry, I mean Aston Villa. Carles Gil’s quality was on clear display for the equaliser, showing superb sleight of foot to work his way into a crossing position and delivering perfectly for Jores Okore’s first goal for the club. I think most of us had forgotten how we were supposed to react, hadn’t we?
Gil continues to stand out as a class above the rest of the Villa side, taking the ball at every opportunity and driving forward. If Scott Sinclair can be galvanised by Paul Lambert’s replacement and start to reproduce the sort of form he showed at Swansea before his ill-advised switch to Manchester City, Villa’s midfield could begin to carry a genuine threat again.
[quote_center]’Given the severity of the club’s present situation in the league, the risks weren’t actually that great.’ Lambert’s sacking[/quote_center]
Paul Lambert’s dismissal will stand out as the high point of an otherwise dismal week for most Villa fans. The best part about it, in a way, is that Villa can hardly get much worse than they have been under the man who may well go down as the worst manager in the club’s history.
After the Hull defeat, there was no real choice between sticking and twisting, even considering the apparently unbreakable bond that seemed to exist between Lambert and Randy Lerner.
CEO Tom Fox warned about the ‘coin toss’ of sacking Lambert, but it had got to a stage where, given the severity of the club’s present situation in the league, the risks weren’t actually that great. Had Lambert remained in charge, it looked inconceivable that Villa would have been a Premier League club come August. In sacking him, Lerner has thrown the club a belated lifeline.
A note of caution, however. Remember Villa fans’ chanted plea for Lambert to join the club from Norwich? Hindsight is both a great and terrible thing, and the club need to make a far more astute appointment than that of Lambert or the nonsensical, ridiculous decision to bring in Alex McLeish before him.
The real problem is that Villa are in a perilous position with 13 games to go, and as a result are going to be a particularly tough sell to any potential new managers. Regardless, what the club must do is appoint a manager who has the motivational skills and tactical nous which Lambert was so severely lacking, and who can get Villa’s players performing and scoring again.
At this stage, the focus has to be on the short-term. Survival is all that’s important before the summer, and I would argue that now would be precisely the wrong time to gamble on a manager who is an unknown entity. Experience will be key in the run-in, particularly as whoever is named as the Scot’s replacement arguably doesn’t have to do much more than instil fresh confidence and spirit into the squad. The talent required to stay up is undoubtedly there in the squad – Gil, Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph, to name but a few, are undoubtedly Premier League class.
If an ailing group of players can be revitalised, there is still plenty of time for Villa to battle to safety. In particular, the problem of the appalling lack of goals which has plagued the club all season needs solving immediately if Villa are to preserve their ever-present Premier League record. The major remaining pressure is that of time – the club need to act quickly, wisely and decisively to prevent a dreadful season from becoming the biggest catastrophe in the club’s recent history.
Click ‘Next’ for the Bad and Ugly