Six defeats in a row, and things aren’t looking much better with in-form West Ham and Southampton on the horizon, and Benteke (unless he wins an appeal, if the club even files one) back in shape but suspended for three games. What can be learned from yet another loss at home, paper talk about Lambert’s possible replacement, and Agbonlahor’s fall from grace to the bench?
HIT FOR SIX
Following the QPR game where Villa were the better team, but couldn’t score, comes the Spurs game where Villa did manage a goal to break that curse, but still ended up losing to an oh-so-predictable free-kick from the one Spurs player the commentators wouldn’t shut up about from the kick-off.
Villa took the lead (after a well-reported nine hours and seven minutes of failing to bag a single onion) and looked good value for it. Benteke hit the bar and despite Spurs pushing forward, Guzan looked like he was up to everything they had. Benteke was sent off for gently brushing Ryan Mason’s cheek after an hour, and when Kane started to fire-up, started doing an equaliser and the eventual winner were just a matter of time, even if they came late.
So, here’s the lesson: If you had any doubts that Harry Kane shot was going in, you are beautifully naïve. It might as well as have been Matthew LeTissier stepping up to kick that in. That’s how football works. Sometimes a game follows a script, sometimes it defies the script, sometimes it does a little of both.
This game played out like a Greek tragedy – Villa looked like inheriting a gift from the gods in the form of a win at home in front of increasingly unhappy fans, until the hero their hopes depend upon, exits stage right. Cue the final act where the all the hard work is undone and with two stab wounds to the heart, Villa are undone.
And we go again.
HE’S NOT AS FAST WHEN HE’S SITTING DOWN
Other than the misfortune of Benteke’s sending-off, another talking point was the benching of Agbonlahor. He was poor against QPR and his replacement Charles N’Zogbia played well in bursts in his place (as is his role as temperamental flamboyant winger).
Eventually, Gabby came on for 15 minutes and was a huge influence on the result… When he decided not to mark his man at a corner and therefore saw Spurs equalise unopposed. There was another winger on the bench who could have come on for N’Zogbia when he came off, of course: Jack Grealish.
Is there anything Gabby, Grealish, and manager Lambert have in common?
A new contract.
Gabby signed his new four-year deal just days before Lambert signed his own new contract. A month later, Grealish was signing his four-year contract extension.
And where has it got them? Gabby is benched after the adulation he enjoyed following his winner at Anfield has all but dried up, Lambert has steered the good ship Villa to such new depths it’s now a submarine in full dive mode, and Grealish has been demoted to gardening duty, picking carrots.
Not to mention poor Fabian Delph who was all set to sign a new deal before dislocating his shoulder in a freak training ground incident.
While Lambert has admitted his new contract doesn’t make him fire-proof it still seems for whatever reason that signing a new deal suddenly sees you dropped after years of being one of the first names on the team sheet or in Grealish’s case, takes you from the fringes of the first team back to the stiffs and earns you a good seat on the bench to watch the team struggle without you. Or the allotment with muddy knees.
Vlaar might be holding out, having learned his lesson from recent recipients of a new deal.
Stan Collymore “revealed” on Twitter that Tony Pulis has been tapped up as the possible replacement for Paul Lambert should the club fire him. Even with a “hey, I’m just saying” semi-retraction afterwards, fans were divided over whether this was good news or not.
While almost certainly paper-speculation, Pulis certainly has Premiership experience and was respected for his results, if not his style, while at Stoke and Palace. And Premiership experience seems to be a key component when Randy is looking for a new man.
Granted, his first choice to replace McLeish was Ole Gunnar Skolskjaer (who had Premiership experience as a player and none as a manager), but after Martin O’Neill left he went with Gerard Houllier ahead of a very interested Ronald Koeman in 2010 and presumably the reason he hired McLeish after Houllier and the club parted company was his familiarity with the league.
In appointing Jo Venglos in 1990, Villa broke new ground and while results didn’t go his way, many of the ideas he tried to instill at the club could now be considered as “before their time” – much like some of Wenger’s ideas when he first came to Arsenal. If Lambert’s days are numbered perhaps the club could take a leap of faith and take on a foreign coach to try and revive the good times at the club? After all, Villa fans will never have to the chance to learn what might have been had Koeman joined when he was touted for the job at Villa Park. UTV
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