It is a question that has lingered in most Aston Villa fans’ minds ever since the poor start they had suffered under new manager Paul Lambert, but are we any closer to an answer?
During the first-half against local rivals West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, Villa were majestic in their passing, creating chances, and more importantly, taking them too. The return of Ron Vlaar strengthened a weak-looking defence, and the strike partnership of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke, supported by the return to form of Charles N’Zogbia, looked very impressive indeed as Vila went in at half-time 2-0 up.
The side that went in at the break looked like they could finish in the top half with the quality on show, but the team that turned out for the second-half looked like certain relegation candidates, and showed exactly why Villa have been struggling all season long. West Brom managed to score twice to equalise the game, but in reality the home side really could have, and maybe should have, gone away from the match with all three points.
Lambert was left with mixed feelings following his side’s Jekyll and Hyde performance in both halves, as he explained after the game: “I have a few things going through my head. I thought we were excellent in the first-half. We should have been out of sight, it should have been finished. We should have been four up, that would have killed the game. The way we played in the first half was excellent.
If games in the Premier League finished at half-time Aston Villa would be sitting on 31 points, sixth in the league. Unfortunately games are 90 minutes long, and Villa have lost 11 points in the second 45 minutes of games, leaving them just one place and one point above the relegation zone. When a team drops that many points in the second-half of matches, there is only ever one explanation, a lack of experience. It is something that has been thrown at Lambert all season, and the statistics back it up.
More worryingly for Villa is that before the match on Saturday Lambert had suggested that there would be no new signings in the January transfer window. Queens Park Rangers and Wigan Athletic have both strengthened their squads so far, and both saw debut goal scorers on Saturday, with QPR’s Loic Remy grabbing them a vital point away to West Ham.
Although the return of N’Zogbia, Vlaar, Richard Dunne and Darren Bent will provide a bit of depth to the Villa squad, it is still not a squad full of talent and a few injuries will lead to Villa once more being short on numbers. Without a significant expenditure on new players in this transfer window, Villa still look almost odds-on for relegation this season, unacceptable for a club that was once the champions of Europe.
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