Bullied, battered, beaten. Aston Villa have been dumped out of two cup competitions in the space of three days, both by lower league opposition. It has been one of the worst weeks in recent history for the Midlands out. The Villa players will feel embarrassed and greatly short on confidence, and it is up to manager Paul Lambert to change that.
Shortly after the Capital One Cup exit to Bradford in midweek, Villa chairman Randy Lerner gave Lambert his full backing, suggesting that even if Villa were to be relegated this season, the Scot would still be the man for the job. With a lack of money to spend, and several first team players only recently recovered from long term injuries, it is not a job many others would want. Villa’s away win against Manchester City in the fourth round of the Capital One cup has been the highlight of their season so far, shortly followed by the 4-1 demolition of Norwich at Carrow Road at the quarter final stages, but now they must move on and try and create some more highlights for the rest of the league campaign.
Lambert put the loss away to Millwall down to individual errors, but the real reason is woeful defending. It has been a problem for Villa almost all season, with a defence lacking in strength, experience and talent. Ron Vlaar’s return to fitness will be an important factor from now until the end of the season, as will Richard Dunne’s imminent return, but a good team attacks as a team and defends as a team, something Villa’s youngsters have not appeared to grasp.
Lambert’s decision to let experienced full back’s Alan Hutton and Stephen Warnock go out on loan for the first months of the season and replace them with the inexperienced Joe Bennett and Matt Lowton has to be questioned. Both players have struggled to adapt to the top flight pressures of English football, and their early season confidence has been drained severely.
A real natural defensive midfielder has also been lacking from the Villa side, as opposition midfielders find it all to easy to cut through Villa’s very fragile defence time and time again. In the 19th minute of every home game Villa are reminded of the leader in midfield that they currently lack, as Stiliyan Petrov has been a massive loss to the club since he was diagnosed with Acute Leukaemia last year. Villa need to add steel and experience into the heart of their team, before it is too late.
Many people have already written off Villa this season, ruling them as certainties for relegation. Their performances this week have done nothing to argue against that, and the suggestion that no players will be added to their struggling squad would also be a key factor in support of a relegation case. Paul Lambert performed a miracle in getting Norwich from the brink of extinction to a solid top flight team, and you get the feeling he may have to perform a similar act to keep Villa safe for another season.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Aston