Can Paul Lambert wake the sleeping giant of Aston Villa?
Paul Lambert is the new manager of Aston Villa replacing Alex McLeish, and will be officially unveiled on Wednesday morning by the Midlands club. He will now be given the task of trying to bring the club back to where the fans believe they should be, fighting for a place in a European competition. With little money available to spend when Lambert arrives, are the fans expecting a miracle? Or can Lambert be the man to awaken this sleeping giant?
Since Martin O’Neill walked out on the club, Aston Villa have struggled to replicate the form that saw them finish in sixth place for three consecutive seasons under the current Sunderland boss. Many would argue that a manager with a reputation as high as O’Neill’s is almost irreplaceable, and that has proven to be the case for Villa. Kevin MacDonald was not the man to do so, as his temporary spell in charge ended with the appointment of Gerard Houllier.
It was a risk by chairman Randy Lerner, one which ultimately did not pay off as poor results and ultimately poor health forced him to leave the club at the end of the 2010-2011 season. Gary McAllister had also been in temporary charge of the club whilst Houllier battled back to full health, but Lerner decided once more that the club needed an overhaul.
At the start of the 2011-2012 season, he would controversially pick Alex McLeish to succeed Houllier. It would be a decision that was doomed from the start, as the former Birmingham City manager was never welcomed at Villa. They recorded their lowest points tally for over 100 years, and coupled with several dreadful performances, McLeish was shown the door to the fans’ delight.
Lambert will not only have to improve the points tally at Villa, he will more importantly have to improve performances. Villa amassed just 37 goals for the entire season, less than a goal per game. All of the bottom three teams scored more, and Bolton and Blackburn also managed more victories than Villa. Lambert’s Norwich team earned five more victories than Villa last season, finishing nine ahead and scoring 15 more goals along the way.
The attacking mentality coached by Lambert will be a breath of fresh air for the Villa faithful, as they have felt the defensive shackles of McLeish’s reign throughout the season. Lambert may try to bring striker Grant Holt with him from Norwich, a target man who finished as the second-highest-scoring English striker last season with 15 league goals. A partnership with Darren Bent could be the answer to Villa’s goal-scoring woes, as no player reached double figures in the league during the last campaign.
With a team that many expected to be relegated, Lambert pulled off an impressive 12th place in the Premier League. The expectations this time around for Lambert will be very different. In his time at Norwich, he has earned two promotions and a creditable mid-table finish. He achieved great success when it was not expected, but at Villa he will be under a very different type of pressure. The club and the fans expect success, but with a very thin squad and the budget being tightened still further, can Lambert deliver what the fans crave? Or will Villa be looking for their sixth manager since the O’Neill era come the end of the season?
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