With the international fixtures taking place during the next few days, club managers such as Paul Lambert can have a short break to take stock of how their team is progressing. With two wins in their previous two Premier League games, Lambert may well believe his young Aston Villa side are finally starting to get it right, or is it just a case of an under-performing team luckily gaining six points against opposition much worse than themselves?
When you look at the matches played, the second statement may well be the more accurate. Having been behind and greatly outplayed in the first 30 minutes of both games against Reading and QPR, and conceding enough chances to lose by three or four goals in each, Villa’s weaknesses are still there for all to see, a side that still lacks leadership, strength and experience struggling to maximise the potential that several of the squad have shown glimpses of for years.
Conceding three goals against two of the lowest scorers in the league also points to a lack of improvement, and adds weight to the already heavy criticism that Aston Villa’s defence have had to take throughout the campaign.
But then there’s the optimist’s opinion, a young side finally starting to find its way in a harshly competitive league, the first back-to-back victories Aston Villa have earned in the Premier League since early 2011, and a determination to win that seemed to have been lacking in recent months.
Some of the football played by the Midlands team during the last two games has been very good, an attractive and attacking freedom that has seen them score five goals in two very important games. With Christian Benteke, Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor grabbing all the goals in both games, Villa’s sprightly attack looks to be on form as they prepare to face the final eight games of the current campaign.
Whichever side you fall, whichever opinion you hold most strongly, there is one thing that everyone can agree on. Aston Villa had two six-pointers to play against two of their rivals, and they won them both. Lambert called for his side to be ruthless, to stop wallowing in hard luck stories and earn the right to win matches, and that is exactly what they have done.
Those six points have clawed Villa out of the relegation zone, and now closer to the top half of the league than the bottom two. There are still plenty of faults to pick at, and the goals conceded by Aston Villa as well as the terrific performances needed from Brad Guzan over the two games to earn those victories show that Villa’s defence is still not strong enough mentally or physically.
At this stage of the season though no manager is looking for terrific performance levels – they are looking for results. Villa have gained six points out of a possible six, and that is the only thing that matters to Lambert and should be the only thing that matters to every fan of Aston Villa. Three more wins may well be enough, if those are gained by awful performances and lucky breaks, any Villa fan would take it.
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