Dave Woodhall looks forward to Villa’s impending cup glory. It’s better than looking at their league form.
At least this Christmas was an improvement on last year’s. That might sound like grounds for optimism until you remember that the comparison is with a three match period which Villa conceded fifteen goals, scored none and suffered the worst defeat in their history. Compared to that, even this week’s misery was a pleasure to behold.
In itself though, it was anything but. The two home games that were supposed to herald a return to form and six holiday points ended up with an appalling defeat to Crystal Palace and a performance against Swansea that saw an improvement to the levels of mediocrity. At least Villa held on for a point on Saturday but it was precious comfort after a game where once again the limitations of the current team were exposed and Paul Lambert’s future came under renewed scrutiny.
I said last week that Villa’s problems stem from the fact that there’s no-one in the team providing any leadership and much of this is down to the drop in form from last season’s new arrivals. I can say the same again this week because the same problem will exist until we add some experience to what must still be the youngest side in the Premier League.
Palace and Swansea are not world-beaters; both were there for the taking by a committed team with the ability to keep possession and break down a tight defence. The team’s commitment can’t be faulted but at the moment they aren’t good enough. At the end of last season Villa were playing decent football, winning their share of games and while they weren’t spectacular, there was a platform to build on. At the end of the year they’ve gone backwards. I don’t know his reasoning but Paul Lambert seems to be repeating everything he did wrong last season while at the same time forgetting what he got right.
Sunderland are next up, with a pleasant trip to the grim north-east seeing in the New Year. Ron Vlaar and Christian Benteke have a chance of getting back into the team and their return can’t come quickly enough. Then there’s the arrival of Sheffield United in the annual triumph of hope over experience that is Villa’s entry into the FA Cup. I’m not one for making predictions, but I’ll bet Paul Lambert’s Friday press conference will centre on our appalling record in the competition. Every Villa manager says it at this time every year and it makes no difference. We’ve got no chance of winning the trophy so we should have saved time and effort by not bothering to enter. Go on Villa, prove me wrong again.
I don’t think Lambert is in any danger even should Villa go out of the cup on Saturday, and I don’t believe that he should go at this stage. In the words of Graham Taylor’s legendary team-talk when Villa were two down to Crewe at half-time of another FA Cup tie in 1988; You got us into this mess, you get can get us out of it.