Dave Woodhall looks at what’s happening in B6 and shakes his head once more.
It’s hard to know where to begin following another week’s worth of pantomime, depression and, possibly, the slenderest of causes for optimism.
We began with yet another home game against potential relegation rivals, namely Newcastle. Villa had managed to lose their two previous matches in similar circumstances and duly made it a hat-trick. Against a side who hadn’t won away all season and were sliding town the table, Paul Lambert played with five at the back and a midfield that was outnumbered throughout the first half. Visiting manager Alan Pardew must have thought Christmas had come around again when he saw the line-up and his team unsurprisingly went into half-time two up. Lambert finally worked out during the interval that he had to sort matters out and to give them their credit, the team made a fist of the second half. They pulled one goal back, never really looked like getting an equaliser and dropped into the bottom three.
This was followed by the embarrassment of the final days of the transfer window. As everyone has been saying for weeks, Villa’s problems are not insurmountable In fact, they’re pretty easy to fix. Central defender, defensive midfielder, both of them with the experience and ability to slot straight into the team and take on the leadership of a set of players who want to hide at the first sign of a setback. We got a midfielder from the French second division and a 25 year old winger who Spurs had previously farmed out to the MLS. Both players might come good in time and I hope they do. Neither is what we need right now.
Paul Lambert indicated that he’d like to have brought other signings in but couldn’t afford them. Apparently we can’t compete with Stoke and Newcastle. That would indicate that the board wouldn’t allow him sufficient funds, and yet, although they give the impression often enough, surely they aren’t so daft as to countenance the false economy of risking relegation for the sake of a comparatively small investment. This week, someone either at Villa Park or 4,000 miles away made potentially the worst mistake in the club’s history.
On that happy note, Goodison Park was never going to be a promising place for the Villa revival to start, particularly as Everton are doing everything right at the moment. Both clubs have spent much of the past 100-odd years in similar positions and it’s our turn to learn a few lessons from them. Managerial stability, decent scouting, picking up bargains from the lower leagues and not being afraid to splash out big money when needed. It’s such an obvious formula that I’m surprised we’ve never thought of it. Anyway, you know what happened – more than an hour of effort, three great goals and some appalling defending. One/two point(s) gained/dropped, a slight glimmer of hope.
Villa must be the most schizophrenic team in the Premier League. They can play like worldbeaters and relegation candidates in the same game. Our away form is as good as some of the top half, the home form would have relegated us already. Our defence is the worst in the Premier League, if not the Championship as well, yet there are clubs chasing a place in the top four who would happily swap their front line for ours. And to labour the point once more, others spent a fortune in January chasing some magic formula while Villa refused to do the obvious. The hard things seem to be easy and the straightforward ones almost impossible.