After an exciting win against a strongly-fancied Bournemouth, Aston Villa fans had two reasons to celebrate and a few lessons to be learned.
Let’s not beat around the bush – the first half of the game on Sunday was business as usual. There was little penetration, and even though Andreas Weimann looked far more comfortable in front of the goal as opposed to near the corner flag the stats don’t lie: 0 shots on target, 0 goals.
Of course the stats at the end didn’t lie either: 2 shots on target, 2 goals. Credit goes to Hutton, a true rampant full-back who had lost his fair share of battles to Fraser before finding the ball for Weimann to bury his goal. And of course, to Carles Gil who was getting lumped in between finding the occasional ball through the midfield in the first half. He started the second half a little wider and pumped up.
His goal was a beauty and with Benteke anonymous, it lifted the crowd and carried the team through for the win.
But certainly credit where it’s due. The success came from a change in tactics which Lambert himself spelled out in his press conference. “I thought the middle of the pitch was too congested in the first half,” he said. “We changed it at half-time and played a different system…. We looked really good in the second half.”
He’s right and deserves his props. It’s not often fans have seen a noticeable switch in tactics mid-game, let alone one that paid off. In the recent past when losing the kick-and-rush only got kickier and rushier and only a couple of times was the new and improved, but duller than dishwater, pass-heavy borefest abandoned as time was running out (when Guzan has been pushed up to try and sneak a goal).
As the only team in the top flight who doesn’t have a substitute that has scored a goal this season, it’s clear work needs to be done on in-game changes but this was a satisfying win against one of the top-scoring teams in world football.
The news that was alluded to on Twitter by the club ended up being more surprising than many fans expected – and also pretty great. Delph signing a new contract after so much speculation that he would be one of the first to jump ship to a team already better than Villa was good news in itself.
From a financial point of view, keeping the player signed by Martin O’Neill for £6m in 2009 under contract is a big score. Under the current regime he has broken into the England squad and is considered a key part of the national team’s rebuilding ahead of the European Championships. If he had been allowed to leave for peanuts or on a free, replacing him would have been very difficult.
For morale too, he said all the right things in his video message, he is one of only a few leaders on the field, and if he is willing to commit to Villa at one of the club’s low points it means, as with Benteke before him, the promise of a strong spine to the team at least will be the foundation for further team growth.
If Lambert’s legacy is that he secured Benteke and Delph on new deals to help move the club up the table, that would be okay with many fans. He might not be getting results, but he’s talked two players who could have moved on to bigger things into staying and being part of the solution. More props are due.
Delph’s best years are ahead of him and hopefully they’ll be at a Villa showing more ambition than the club has in recent seasons.
WHO LOVES YOU, BABY
Kozak was reportedly coming back to light training this week, which is fantastic news not just for the unfortunate striker but for the team. There is nobody on the squad who can come close to replacing Benteke for height, presence, heading ability and positioning. But Libor Kozak showed he’s the best we have on the team to come close.
Lambert is in no rush to bring him into a game following his collapse from his nasty leg break, which is sensible. But to have that option on the bench: to either double the potential target man threat or to replace Benteke without reducing that centre forward threat too significantly, would be very welcome.
Let’s just hope he’s not our first substitute to score this season…when he comes back in late February/early March. UTV
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Very well put Son Lyme! At last some positivity around here! Not many managers would have kept Villa up on his budget, onwards and upwards! UTV
So we win. Beating a side who are tearing up the Championship and who most magnificently, thrashed eight goals past our bitter little brothers. Yet still, many complain and see the manager as to blame.
Many of MOMS points are valid, but on a weekend where many expected Villa to go out of the cup, they didn’t. Instead Chelsea were destroyed by Bradford City, remember them? Man Utd were neutralised by Cambridge, Spurs went out, and so did the expensively assembled rent a stars of Man City. I wonder if Chelsea fans are right now painting banners calling for Mourinho to get out?
Lambert is in fact adept at changing his formation and tactics, it was a feature of his successful time at Norwich City (remind me again what happened to them after he left). If you don’t believe me you can read something about it and his rivalry with Brendan Rodgers here..
or here …
or maybe here …
Of course, you may well choose to not read what people in the industry say about Lambert and his tactical nous, but if you are of that ilk, nothing will persuade you differently, you are on a jihad of your own and blind to everything else.
What is true and plain for all to see is that Lambert’s bargain basement purchases of Jores Okore and Carles Gil proved to be masterstrokes yesterday. Those two made the difference on Sunday, yet I see nor hear any praise for the manager in getting them in.
Villa are playing premier league football on championship money – that is the reality – and until the overly expensive contracts of the Bent’s and Given’s and co expire, Lambert is left with little room for maneuver.
As for being unpopular with the players, I think Benteke’s decision to stay last year was a marker against that, and the recent signing of Delph in the face of strong competition confirms it. The players respect him because he was a good player and a good captain and they obviously think he is a good manager.
As do most of Germany’s football community. Pep Guardiola invited Lambert to come and pick brains at Bayern because of that respect, I see no invites going out for Tony Pulis or Harry Rednapp or any of the other names I have seen suggested as alternatives. Lambert got his badges in the German system, and that system is pragmatic and egalitarian and honest. He is doing his best with not a lot. I just wish the internet wasn’t awash with the bile and blame that spills from the mouths of so many Villa quick fix merchants.
We won. We’re in the hat tonight. And when Benteke finds some form (or at least some movement) we will enjoy more positive results. Of that I’m sure because I am a Villa fan.
I think Lambert has a LOT to prove. The championship wages thing…well Bradford were on League 2 wages in the cup semi-final… He had players on Premier League wages, but he didn’t use them – Hutton, Bent, Ireland etc. No manager in Villa history has a poorer Villa Park record and with 41 pt and 38 pt finishes he’s been a whisker away from relegation in both his seasons in charge.
A 2-1 against Bournemouth’s ‘cup’ team (it is their league first XI that is doing well and beat the Blues 8-0) will not banish away his failures so far.
Lambert has a long way to go, to win back Villa supporters. A long way. And that is just a realistic outlook on the matter.
It’s simple, he needs to win football games and he does have a squad of players to do that, he needs to utilise them better – i.e. for starters he needs to get the best out of Benteke, who seems to forget he’s playing in a ‘team’ at the moment.
He may have been over-acquainted with the ugly stick, but actually Kozak was better minutes-per-goal last season than Benteke, by a long chalk.
why wait the first half before changing it,,,,,, cant managers change tactics at any time
to me it highlights brilliantly lamberts weakness,, but before any of you go on about being a lambert hater
i am not,, i want him to succeed but he needs to act on obvious failings much much quicker
and not take 3 or 4 games as he usually does, of just ignore,
he deserved credit for many things this year and mr gil is another probable gem
slowly maybe the pieces are coming together , but we need benteke to find form soon
maybe the bigger games coming up will prove an impetus
but to bask in the glory of a win and two brilliant goals, and delph penning a new contract
made sunday a very happy day,,
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