Horrible isn’t a word used to describe Paul Lambert as a person. He comes across as one of the decent blokes in football and tends to stay under the radar.
His management of Aston Villa, on the other hand, is horrible. Atrocious. How ever you may describe it, him and his team are putting Villa fans through the mill and then once again for extra measure.
Aston Villa faced my beloved Blackpool in the FA Cup a couple of weeks back and although I didn’t actually go, I did watch a live stream, which was essentially background noise on my laptop. An eventual roar of relief told me that Villa had scraped a lucky goal. You can only ever beat what’s in front of you, no matter the level or skill of the opposition or how you do it, but if you’re struggling against a Blackpool side who couldn’t buy a win, unless they’re using funds that came from suing fans, then you really should be concerned.
When Lambert took over at Villa Park in June 2012, he arrived off the back of a successful spell at Norwich City, where he oversaw two promotions, guiding the Canaries from League One to the Premier League. He offered his resignation in 2012, but it was declined following Norwich’s survival during their first Premier League season. Shortly after that he joined Aston Villa – where it has been two and a half years of head in hands for The Villains.
During his first season, Lambert set out laying new records, as he oversaw the Midlands’ Club heaviest ever defeat in the Premier League with an 8-0 crushing by Chelsea. This was followed by two home defeats to Wigan and Tottenham over the festive period and kick-started the ongoing pressure on Lambert and the terrible football that many judged them to play – a reputation that is, unfortunately, still in effect today.
Aston Villa haven’t been monumentally awful, but they’re usually last on Match of the Day, so that should tell you all you need to know.
Recently, they suffered another unacceptable defeat, falling to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Midlands rivals Leicester City, who remain rooted to the bottom of the table despite the win. Villa currently sit 13th, somehow. With a tough game at home to Liverpool in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off, they could find themselves even lower by the end of the weekend. Home fans seem to have finally lost faith in Paul Lambert and have resorted to chanting for his sacking – understandably so.
Although Villa have been fairly injury-plagued and could consider themselves unlucky, looking at their starting eleven at Leicester, it was still a very experienced and strong side. Christian Benteke, who is always at the summit of gossip columns when the transfer window is open, has remained at the club despite the consistent rumours, however he has lost his shooting boots when Villa need him most.
The Belgian international was injured for a good seven months when he ruptured his Achilles in March and fans and pundits alike referred to Benteke’s injury as a huge factor in Villa’s poor start to this season. However, he has started the last eight games in all competitions and has only found the net on two occasions. Whether this is down to a lack of confidence or support from team-mates is up for debate, but it doesn’t change the fact that Villa seem to lack everything – composure, creativity and confidence.
Benteke isn’t the only attacker falling short of late. Stalwarts Joe Cole and Gabriel Agbonlahor have been massively under-performing and, although it’s down to the players to create chances, Paul Lambert’s style of play isn’t helping their cause.
Villa’s defending, on the other hand, is as good as you can get surprisingly and their current position reflects that. If it wasn’t for their solid defence then they would probably be in the relegation zone, but to give them credit they have conceded just five goals in their last nine games. If they were scoring goals at the other end they would be comfortably in the top half of the table.
‘Ifs’ and ‘buts’ aside, Lambert’s style of play seems to hint at a lack of Plan B and the January transfer window might be the ideal opportunity to bring in a forward who can find the back of the net or create a handful of chances each game.
Lambert needs to start sending his team out to go and get goals and play good, pacey football. Their game against Liverpool is a perfect opportunity to begin that style of play, while their FA Cup came against AFC Bournemouth next week, in which they are clear favourites, would also be good place to start, ahead of consecutive clashes against Arsenal and Chelsea.
There’s a huge amount of unrest at Villa Park no matter if you’re a ‘glass half-full’ or ‘glass half-empty’ type supporter, with a half-empty ground, lack of atmosphere and a potential sacking hovering over Lambert.
Randy Lerner, the chairman at Aston Villa, needs to back or sack Lambert and provide the improvements to the playing team that are desperately required if they wish to stay in the league. As fallen teams will know, relegation is far more expensive than splashing out £10 million on a top forward. Whoever is in charge at Villa Park needs to bring in some creativity on the pitch and, more importantly, the fans off it.