Villa’s defending across the two games was awful. Ron Vlaar’s defending for Charlie Austin’s opener in particular at Loftus Road was dreadful, and Villa were riding the luck of Spurs’ appalling profligacy in front of goal for most of the game at Villa Park.
The equaliser was inevitable, despite some claiming that Spurs didn’t even look like scoring. Rule Number One – if a team are playing Villa, they always look like scoring.
Carlos Sanchez has taken over N’Zogbia’s position as Villa’s Most Frustrating Player for me with his last two performances, as he has arguably played pretty well generally before undoing his hard work by making crucial and costly errors.
At QPR he protected the defence relatively well before his key error gifted the home side a crucial goal and at Villa Park on Sunday he didn’t look too out of his depth until diving in for the rash challenge from which Harry Kane scored his media-acclaimed deflected free-kick for the winner. His passing and composure on the ball is another aspect of his game that desperately needs work if he is to adapt to the Premier League quickly.
Aly Cissokho is another contender for the title. Sometimes solid when defending in the left-back position, when attacking he regresses before your eyes into a man who can’t run with the ball, can’t cross, and can’t make key decisions when in possession.
Villa have several such frustrating players, and improvements are needed all over the park from certain individuals.
The club under Lambert has no stability or any real discernible plan, both on and off the field.
Lambert seems to set the side up without really having any idea of what he wants to get out of his team, and although occasionally this pays dividends (the first hour or so of Sunday afternoon being a good example), once things begin to go against Villa (such as at QPR) there seems to be no concept of how to arrest the slide.
The drought may be over now, but for a Premier League team to fail to score in the equivalent of six full matches defies belief, regardless of the calibre of opposition. Villa fans who have Twitter had all heard the stats/jokes – Ronaldo had scored 20-odd since we last had, Watford and Leeds had had five managers between them in the time, etc, etc – but no wonder those kind of things were cropping up. If it was another team, we’d have made jokes.
Even with Weimann’s goal on Sunday afternoon Villa have only scored in four out of their 11 games so far this season. It is a problem that it is imperative that Villa must address, otherwise the Championship tour that we have pulled out of at the last minute in each of the last few seasons will become reality.
It was encouraging to have the threat of an approaching-fitness actually-interested Benteke back in the side, although that may admittedly have been something to do with the fact that he was being marked by Younes Kaboul all game.
That all came crashing down with 25 minutes left however. Despite Villa fans’ claims that Benteke’s red card was harsh, if a player raises his hands he has to be prepared to be sent off. Yes, Ryan Mason should have been sent off for putting his face in Benteke’s, yes Jan Vertonghen should probably have seen red for a two-footed challenge earlier, but Benteke threw away his decent start to the game and jeopardised Villa’s crucial victory.
You can’t be that naïve in your reaction to a challenge as a professional footballer, you just can’t. The only real injustice was that Spurs hadn’t had at least one player sent off earlier in the game. Villa and Benteke now face the stark reality that at a time when Villa need to be picking up points and Benteke is still trying to regain his match fitness and sharpness, the Belgian will now not return until December.
The biggest worry for Villa now is when you trawl through the fixture list to try to identify the club’s next win. West Ham away up next is a hugely difficult trip to one of the league’s in-form teams, and after the international break Southampton at home poses arguably an even greater test.
On paper, fans will be looking at Burnley away at the end of the month as the biggest chance for three points, but I’d argue a imagining a Villa win is a much bigger stretch than imagining a Burnley win as things stand.
Even a battling draw would be so heartening for the club and the fans at this point in time. After suffering six defeats in a row in the league for the first time in half a century, Villa desperately need to stop the rot before it sets in and eats our club away.