Saints and Sinners

Dave Woodhall on the contrasting fortunes of the Aston Villa Football Club.

Right, what cliche do I want to use about Saturday’s debacle? A game of two halves? You win nothing with kids? It’s a work in progress? How about a week is a long time in football? That’ll do for now.

A quarter of an hour can be a long time as well. Or to be more accurate, it can be a significant time. Villa left the St Mary’s pitch at half-time on Saturday a goal up and if they didn’t exactly look unbeatable they still seemed good value for the three points. I don’t know what happened during the break but the teams were unrecognisable in the second half. Stephen Ireland going off with what turned out to be a suspected broken arm was a bigger blow than it might have been – without him Villa were far too deep and allowed Southampton to come at them.

The second half was a nightmarish return to last season. Villa’s defence was shambolic and the passing, possession-based game which stood the team in such good stead over the past few games was replaced by long, hopeful punts upfield. Christian Benteke might provide an intimidating presence/battering ram but, as we saw with John Carew in Martin O’Neill’s teams, such a presence also provides an outlet for the easy option of a long ball lumped forward. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t now.

There might have been an air of complacency, being in the lead against a team who had lost their four previous league games. It might have been a communal off-day. After all, with so many youngsters and inexperienced players in the side there are bound to be slip-ups on the rocky road to success. Whatever the reason, we can’t afford a repeat. With Paul Lambert in charge I don’t think we’ll get one.

Luckily the team have the chance to get Saturday’s display out of their systems almost immediately with a League Cup tie on Tuesday night. Hope springs eternal…

Then there’s the Albion on Sunday. They’re doing well but don’t seem to play as effectively on their travels as they do at the Hawthorns. Hopefully the long journey to Villa Park will affect their performance.

Or maybe Villa will forget all about Saturday just gone, concentrate on playing to the best of their ability and give us a shock cup result as well as the sort of derby win that should be routine. Next Monday could be a much happier time than this one. After all, a week is a long time in football.