Just eight games into his Aston Villa career, Paul Lambert is already under increasing pressure to perform after just five points so far. Lambert now has to face Norwich City, the side he left to move to Villa Park, and Villa fans are expectant of a much needed three points.
The last time Villa obtained just five points from their opening eight games was the 1986-87 season, where they were last relegated from the top-flight. A win will lighten the dark mood that has swirled around Villa Park ever since Martin O’Neill’s resignation from the Villa job back in the summer of 2010. Alex McLeish failed to raise the spirits and Lambert has been set the task of bringing the Villa Park side back to former glories, but with the two Manchester sides and Arsenal up next in November, any less than a win against Norwich could send Villa into a severe state of depression.
Villa may have to face Norwich with only one recognised central defender with Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker still struggling to shake off injuries. With Richard Dunne still unavailable, Lambert may have to start summer signing Matt Lowton at centre back with American Eric Lichaj filling in at right-back. Lambert also has striking dilemmas over whether to start Darren Bent or Christian Benteke and another worry will be the form of Gabriel Agbonlahor. His last goal in the Premier League was against Norwich last November and has now failed to score in his last 27 appearances.
Norwich are not firing on all cylinders either and they sit sixth bottom with just one win all season. That came last weekend at the expense of Arsenal, a result that will relieve manager Chris Hughton in his pursuit to lay Lambert’s presence at Carrow Road to rest. The Canaries were comfortable survivors last season, their return to the top-flight after a six year exodus, but their battle with relegation looks set to be a lot closer this season and a win at Villa Park would be a massive confidence boost.
Hughton has no fresh injury concerns ahead of his side’s trip to the Midlands and could be bolstered by the return of Steven Whitaker. The summer acquisition from Rangers has struggled with an ankle injury suffered in pre-season, but may recover in time to fill the bench at Villa Park. Hughton will be hopeful the form of star striker Grant Holt continues with the Norwich target man scoring in his last three fixtures.
Lambert will be welcomed by the Norwich fans he left with warmth, even if he is not well-met by the Norwich chairman Alan Bowkett. The two are embroiled in a lawsuit over breach of contract, but that will not concern the Scotsman who is desperate to get his Villa managerial career rolling. Norwich want the three points too and a win at Villa Park could be the springboard they need for another successful season at Carrow Road.
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