Villa lost at home again. Dave Woodhall wonders why.
University theses could be written about why Villa’s home form is so poor. No matter who the manager is, whatever players he picks, we can’t seem to hit on a way of making Villa Park a place where away teams arrive more in hope than expectation. It goes back to Graham Taylor’s days and even before then. Everton were the latest of the clubs we usually compare ourselves with to turn up, perform without having to be at their best, and leave with three points.
In Villa’s defence, the team opened brightly. Had Christian Benteke scored his eighth minute penalty the outcome could have been different. Had Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann put away their chances the game would have been won by half-time. They didn’t, it wasn’t and an Everton counter-attack with twenty minutes to go showed the difference between the teams. Heads went down and the only question from then on was whether Everton would get another. They did.
The deficiencies in the Villa team are obvious. There’s no-one in midfield who can either set up enough chances or close down the opposition. Fabian Delph is finally fulfilling the promise he showed when he was with Leeds but he can’t be expected to win midfield battles on his own. Why Yacouba Sylla isn’t in the side is a mystery and what one or two players need to do to be dropped is equally baffling. Second season syndrome seems to have settled in amongst some who performed much better last year and they need to be reminded that big contracts mean higher expectations.
As for the opposition, they were decent enough to show that the recent Everton tradition of finishing as best of the rest will be upheld. There’s something to be said here for continuity; Roberto Martinez might seem a different type of manager to David Moyes but he’s resisted the temptation to make changes for the sake of them. Everton are essentially doing the same things that they’ve done for over a decade and are doing well for it. The clubs currently punching above their weight in the Premier League are the ones who have a plan and stick to it regardless of changes in management and playing staff. Villa’s modern history is a tale of lurching from one extreme to the other and as a result have woefully under-achieved. The lesson is obvious. After another poor result it’s only natural that supporters are beginning to wonder about Paul Lambert. To my mind it’s pointless to think about replacing him, but he certainly needs to work out how to alter a system that plainly isn’t working.
Next up is a visit to West Ham, home of everyone’s favourite club owners and campaigners to be given a new ground. It’s the start of a run of games that could yield a good number of points. So far this season Villa have played six of the top seven and just one of the bottom seven. That’s the main reason why I’m not particularly worried just yet, but another few Saturdays like the one just endured might be another thing entirely.