King Koeman vs Lame Lambert?
On the pitch
Monday’s showdown with Southampton looks set to be a mismatch – you’ve got the second-highest scorers (23 in 11) travelling to the league’s lowest scorers (5).
The Saints simply do not concede goals, either. They’ve shipped just five in their 11 games so far this season. Villa, meanwhile, couldn’t hit a barn door at the moment and lie bottom when it comes to creating chances (69); Swansea are 19th having created seven more.
The word toothless springs to mind and the club has become a shadow of what it once was.
Southampton are by far the superior of passers (5,513 compared to 3,845); then again I cannot remember the last time Lambert’s Lions went into a game expecting to tame the opposition with pass ‘n’ move football.
For all of their possession, Southampton (155) do like taking a pop on goal and have registered 54 more shots than Villa (101) in the same amount of games. Villa, unsurprisingly, lie bottom of the league when it comes to shots on goal. Who said Villa fans don’t deserve a whinge? Should we just sit back and ‘go again next week’ – watching the same old story unfold right before our eyes?
Anyway, that’s enough of the stats – I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at them.
Know your players
Aston Villa and Southampton are two sides travelling in totally the opposite direction.
Ex-Barcelona and Holland captain Ronald Koeman has re-galvanised The Saints since taking over in the summer. The 51-year-old has arguably achieved more in his first three months than Lambert has in his two years at Villa Park. Why? Just look at the calibre of players the Dutchman has brought in.
Yes, Koeman’s pumped £50-odd million in, using the income from the Lallana, Shaw et al sales but he went out and knew exactly what he was buying.
Star performers Dusan Tadic (£10.9m) and Graziano Pelle (£8m) arrived from FC Twente and Feyenoord respectively – two players Koeman has seen up close and personal during his three-year stint in Rotterdam.
Fraser Forster and Shane Long – who cost £22 million combined – have been solid Premier League acquisitions who will be there for the long haul.
Senegalese winger Saido Mane (£11.8m) came with an impressive goal record in Austria and the 22-year-old has continued his fine form this season.
There’s some serious sums of money there and the question is can Villa cope with the demands of the Premier League? The last similar outlay on a player was the £7 million spent on Libor Kozak, who has been out with a broken leg since January 2013.
In his two seasons boss Paul Lambert experimented with young and little-known players who came in for peanuts. They included the likes of Aleksander Tonev (£2.5m), Karim El Ahmadi (£2m), Joe Bennett (£2.75m), Leandro Bacuna (£3m) and Antonio Luna (£2m). You may as well have burned the £12.25 million there!
The experiment, as you’re more than aware of, failed dismally. Only the likes of Ron Vlaar, Christian Benteke, Ashley Westwood and Matt Lowton have been credible signings. But now even the latter two have been asked serious questions to whether they are adding much to the team.
As for this summer’s ‘tried and trusted’ policy, yes, Lambert knew what he was getting – a no-nonsense centre-half (Senderos), a left-back with pedigree (Cissokho) and an energetic midfielder-come-full-back (Richardson) – but they have severely struggled in terms of quality, especially against the top teams.
To date – or five transfer windows to be precise – I can only really applaud ONE solitary signing Lambert has made and that is our talisman Christian Benteke, who will be serving his second game of his three-match suspension on Monday night.
In terms of the game at Villa Park, you’ll see one team knowing exactly what their strengths are and another team still trying to work out what to do. I’ll leave you to work out which team is which…
Oh when the Saints go marching in
Since Southampton were promoted in 2012 Villa have, quite simply, been chasing shadows.
The last time the teams met was a goalless draw at Villa Park in April. The Saints enjoyed 68 per cent possession compared to Villa’s mere 32 per cent.
In Villa’s fine 3-2 win at St Mary’s, which included THAT Fabian Delph bullet, we recorded a laughable 23 per cent possession.
The Saints done the double over us in Lambert’s first season – a 4-1 trouncing at St Mary’s and a 1-0 Rickie Lambert penalty at Villa Park.
The last time we beat Southampton I was a youngster in the Trinity Road stand. I remember Carlton Cole, on debut, slotting home and diving into a rapturous Holte End in a 2-0 win at the start of the 2004/05 campaign.
The Villa boys are priced at 15/4 to record their second home win of the season. Southampton are unsurprisingly odds-on at 3/4 to get their fifth win on the bounce.
So, what is in Villa’s favour? It’s been 10 weeks since we last banked three points. The solidarity shown at Upton Park and the high work rate against Tottenham does bode well, but it comes down to quality and that, I’m afraid, is something we’re severely lacking.
Mr Lambert: what do you have up your sleeve? Can you surprise us all and steer us away from yet another relegation-threatened season? It is well and truly up to you now – your fate is in your own hands.
Burnley, Palace, Leicester and West Brom are up next – if you can’t pick up points in those games then what hope do we have?
As always, UTV!
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