Villa's plight is brutally exposed
Paul Lambert must have been looking forward to his home debut as Aston Villa boss on Saturday.
Despite a narrow loss in his first match in charge at West Ham, it was the chance for him to stamp his authority as the new gaffer and to bring happy times back to Villa Park.
When Nikica Jelavic smashed in Leighton Baines’s cross to put Everton 3-0 up before half-time, it completed Lambert’s worst nightmare.
If the Scot didn’t realise the task he had before this game, he now does. It was one of the most one-sided games in Premier League history.
No exaggeration here, Everton could have been 7-0 up by half-time and while they were rampant and full of confidence, their performance exposed Villa’s plight from Champions League contenders three seasons ago, to survival stragglers.
Unable to recover
Ever since Martin O’Neill decided to walk out on the club just days before the start of the 2010-11 campaign, Aston Villa have looked as stable as the coalition government.
Gerard Houllier’s season in charge brought few highlights and health issues ended the Frenchman’s tenure prematurely, even though the club scraped into the top half under the caretaker stewardship of Gary McAllister.
So, Randy Lerner’s decision to bring in Birmingham boss Alex McLeish, who might have won the Carling Cup but got the men from St. Andrews, relegated twice in his management, was bewildering to say the least.
For the fans last season, it was one of rebel and disgust and despite staying unbeaten until the beginning of October, the cracks appeared fairly quickly.
Watching Aston Villa last season must have been depressing. For a neutral, it was some of the most unattractive, predictable and negative football I’ve ever seen.
They should have got relegated and only Bolton’s shaky finish, combined with QPR’s lack of away form and Blackburn generally underperforming prevented this from happening.
I’m afraid that watching paint dry, mowing the lawn or cleaning out the garage would have been more attractive than watching Aston Villa last season.
With Lambert (pictured) in charge, hopes were high for a recovery but Saturday’s dismal display brutally exposed their lack of squad depth.
Lack of goals
16th placed last season under McLeish led to him being sacked, 24 hours after the season concluded.
Ironically, two other managers who guided the club to a 16th place finish in the Premier League before, Graham Taylor (2003) & David O’Leary (2006) had received a similar fate.
When Darren Bent got injured at the end of February, ruling him out of the run-in and Euro 2012, the club has since scored a miserable nine times in 16 competitive matches, a sobering statistic.
Bent can get the goals; there is no doubt about that. It was his 24 strikes that kept Sunderland above the drop zone in 2009-10.
However, he doesn’t look 100 per cent fit yet and with a lack of quality upfront and in the wide areas, he cuts a frustrated and forlorn figure on the field.
Emile Heskey was released in the summer and Gabriel Agbonlahor’s lack of goal potential is startling.
A former England international prospect, Agbonlahor has scored a dreary seven times in the Premier League in the last two seasons alone.
If Bent is misfiring, the lack of goals in the first-team is evident.
It isn’t just the lack of goals but the general lack of quality at the club.
At the back, Carlos Cuellar left for Sunderland and James Collins returned to West Ham, with a lack of adequate replacements.
Stephen Warnock is out of his depth, Ron Vlaar needs time to settle and Richard Dunne might be solid but simply can’t play week in week out nowadays.
Shay Given, one of the team’s most reliable performers last season, has had a horror start to the new term and made a terrible blunder for Maroualine Fellani’s goal at the weekend.
Given has experience of this before, thinking back to his time at Newcastle and even at Euro 2012 with the Republic of Ireland. He must have that sinking feeling.
What has happened to Charles N’Zogbia too? The saviour of Wigan two years ago has done absolutely nothing since transferring to Villa Park and his regular underperformances are not surprising anymore.
There seems to be a lack of ambition, a lack of quality and a total lack of belief.
Sitting in the home dugout at the weekend, Lambert must have been thinking; “Why did I leave Norwich?”
Buy or face the consequences
With Friday’s transfer window deadline looming, Villa need to buy or face the consequences.
Although there is good talent coming through the academy, with the likes of Chris Herd, Andreas Weimann, Barry Bannan and Gary Gardner challenging for a first-team place, they just can’t rely on the kids, to get them out of trouble.
A striker is urgently required and while interest in Stoke’s Kenwyne Jones has notably cooled, Wolves ace Kevin Doyle remains a target, as does Huddersfield hotshot Jordan Rhodes.
Deals could also be done for the likes of Scott Dann of Blackburn, Kyle Naughton from the revolving door that is Tottenham on loan and Jamie O’Hara.
In the final week of the transfer window, we’ve often seen a lot of panic buying but Villa has no alternative but to make moves.
It might be early doors but the signs of a long struggle are already there. Odds on the club going down must be shortened and worth a wager for some.
Aston Villa is a founder member of the FA Premier League and for them to drop out of the league is almost unthinkable.
However, something has to change or that could well become reality come May.
By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88
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