Aston Villa looked to have turned the corner in recent weeks after impressive performances against both Sunderland and Manchester United, but they were brought back to earth with a bang on Saturday as champions Manchester City ran out easy winners at the Etihad.
Villa started brightly but as soon as City took the lead just before half time, their confidence and belief appeared to fade away. The 5-0 score-line possibly flattered Manchester City slightly, as two controversial penalties set them on their way, but Villa could have no complaints with the result. They may not have expected to get much from the champions of the Premier League on their own patch, but Villa players and fans would not have expected some of the weekend’s other results. Indeed, Southampton’s win over QPR and impressive wins for Reading and Norwich against Everton and Manchester United respectively meant that for the first time this season Aston Villa were dumped into the relegation zone.
Paul Lambert did not enjoy the best of times last year against Manchester City, with his Norwich team losing 5-1 and 6-1 in the two games they played against the Champions. With Villa now dropping onto the relegation zone for the first time this season after the disappointing result, the pressure will begin to mount on Lambert to get his young Villa team firing. Next up for Villa is resurgent Arsenal at Villa Park, a game in which Villa have struggled to get anything over the years, and fans may well expect that pattern to continue.
The two fixtures after the Arsenal game will be decisive for Villa’s season. They face Reading in a midweek fixture on the 27th November, before then travelling to winless QPR on the following Saturday. Six points from these two games will almost certainly lift Villa out of trouble, and looking upwards instead of down. Anything less than 6 points, and Villa will still be exactly where they do not want to be; in the relegation dogfight.
With a team as young as Villa’s, lacking in any real experience of handling the pressures of a relegation fight, getting out of the situation they are in as quickly as possible is vital. Lambert has a job on his hands to keep this once great club in the Premier League, and it is a job at the moment he is not looking likely to succeed in.
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