After two wins in the space of a week, and a terrific performance against the most successful team in the Premier League last weekend, Villa fans and players have rediscovered the word ‘optimism’. A word that has not been used widely in recent seasons, but there are now signs that Paul Lambert is beginning to turn the fortunes around of this once great club.
It was no coincidence that it was one of Villa’s young home grown talents that stole the show last Saturday, as Austrian forward Andreas Weimann grabbed himself a brace against Manchester United. Paul Lambert’s ethos has always been to give players a chance to prove themselves at the highest level of English football; his Norwich side from the previous campaign being the perfect example. Most promoted sides look to bring in experienced campaigners when they enter the Premier League, believing that they will have the skills and wealth of knowledge to help keep their side up. Lambert however believed fully in the players he already had available to him, and his faith paid off as it was players like Grant Holt, Wes Hoolahan and John Ruddy who shone, having already helped to earn them promotion the season before.
Weimann was given a chance to impress by former manager Alex McLeish last season, but that was down to a lack of options available to him due to several senior players missing through injury. Weimann knew that when the likes of Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor returned to the team, he would be placed back on the bench, not giving him the belief he needed to fully shine. Paul Lambert manages in a different way, and picks players purely on form and effort. Dropping an experienced international goalkeeper in Shay Given to bring in Brad Guzan was questioned by many at first, but the decision has more than paid off as Guzan has been one of Villa’s stand out performers so far this campaign.
Darren Bent’s position on the bench has been the topic of many debates across the country, but the form of fellow strikers Agbonlahor, Chrisian Benteke and now Weimann is solely down to the faith shown in them by manager Paul Lambert. They all truly believe they are good enough to perform at this level, and their goals and effort will mean that Bent will have to be at his best to return to the first team; something he has not been for a very long time.
With all the positives that can be taken in recent weeks, Aston Villa are still in a very precarious position as they sit just a few points ahead of the relegation zone. With their confidence taking a knock against Manchester United last Saturday, an easier opponent would have been welcome this weekend. Unfortunately, they now face an even tougher match away to the champions of the Premier League, Manchester City. A loss will be expected, but anything is achievable if the Villa players truly believe in themselves as they did last Saturday against City’s neighbours.
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