With Aston Villa 3-1 away to Everton with just over 20 minutes to go, a victory for the struggling Midlands team looked to finally be on the cards.
Once more, the much needed victory eluded them, as two errors in defence led to two soft goals being conceded late on to level the game 3-3. It was a game that showed Villa’s attacking strengths and their defensive weaknesses, and it has been a similar story told throughout the season so far.
Villa looked a strong side in the first half, limiting Everton to only a couple of clear cut chances as they took a 2-1 lead at the break. Aston Villa looked a threat going forward, with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke grabbing the goals and looking a real force up front. With Andreas Weimann also creating opportunities, and missing a glorious chance at the start of the second half, you would struggle to believe this side were the second lowest goal-scorers in the league.
In the last 20 minutes you could see exactly why they are in the position they are, as a lack of experience in defence once more led to the Villa back line dropping deeper and deeper as the game progressed, resulting in two relatively easy goals for Everton powerhouse Marouane Fellaini. It was a missed opportunity for Paul Lambert’s side to grab the vital victory they have been looking for in recent months, and they are very quickly running out of those opportunities to save themselves this season.
With the January transfer window now slammed shut, Villa are limited with their options in their defensive third. Lambert has brought in young defensive midfielder in French under-21 international Yacouba Sylla, a player who he hopes will add steel to a very week looking midfield.
With Richard Dunne suffering a setback in his recovery from a long standing groin injury suffered at the European Championships with Ireland, and current captain Ron Vlaar only just recently recovering from his long term injury, it seemed clear to most Villa fans what area of the team needed to be strengthened.
Although Lambert may not have had a lot of money to spend in January, a loan for an experienced centre back must surely have been an option to the Scot. Lambert had declared in weeks previous that the current squad had enough experience to keep them in the top tier of English football, but the lack of depth he now has in defence will surely be a risk that was not needed for the rest of the campaign.
With fellow strugglers Newcastle and QPR strengthening significantly in the January transfer window, and Reading, Southampton and Wigan also adding to their squads, it looks almost certain that Aston Villa may well be heading for relegation.
If the worst does happen, it will be the first time they have been relegated since the Premier League was created in the early 1990s. The result against Everton shows that up front they may have top quality players, but their poor defence will be the reason for their downfall.
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