Aston Villa‘s problems are there for all to see. An inexperienced side struggling to halt a terrible run of results which has seen them drop towards the relegation zone in the Premier League and two shock exits from both cups. Their one saving grace? Paul Lambert. But what can the former Livingston, Wycombe, Colchester and Norwich boss do to turn things around?
By Marc Eadie – @Eadie84
Languishing in 17th position of the Barclays Premier League, Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa are in dire need of a change in fortune. Sandwiched between their somewhat surprising 3-1 victory over Liverpool in mid-December are a list of results that make for grim reading. Now winless in six league games – picking up only two points in these matches – the January window is surely their last chance to resurrect what has quickly become a vicious downward spiral for the club.
Lambert feels his squad are strong enough already to avoid relegation but does admit he is looking to strengthen – albeit on a slim budget according to club chairman Randy Lerner. Despite Lerner’s recent vote of confidence though, is it more likely we see a firing before any such fortune?
Lambert is relatively young himself at 43 but already he has so many qualities that suggest he will be a successful manager for years to come. He has a fantastic temperament and has so far handled the pressure and questioning of his side very well.
His work at Norwich spoke volumes for his ability as the club rose to the Premier League but the move to Villa has proved to be a more difficult challenge for him. He is an intelligent man and it’d be very surprising if he had anticipated anything but a difficult debut season at Villa Park.
Of the few signings earlier this season Christian Benteke in particular has drawn attention for his obvious talent and most notably his age. The Belgian is only 22 and like the majority of Lambert’s side, he’s at the right time of his career to improve. There is an indication that this was all part of a bigger, more elaborate, plan from Lambert. Villa have their eggs in the long-term basket, but with their position in the league and the end of the transfer window days away, the club have to make signings to preserve their Premier League status.
Of the bottom five sides Villa look the most vulnerable. Their relegation rivals, Queen’s Park Rangers and Reading, will probably be able to spend a little bit more than them to aid their escape while fellow strugglers Newcastle United have already assured that some of France’s finest talent has been signed up to steady their ship. And Wigan, who are currently in the drop zone, have one key advantage over all the other sides; experience. They have been through the relegation fight before and have players who are familiar with the additional pressure that it brings.
Villa, with a limited budget and a particularly young and inexperienced squad will surely find the next few months the most challenging unless Lambert can show another trait of his managerial mastermind and bring in someone affordable, with experience, who can slot straight into the first team. If he pulls that off he’ll not only save Villa from going down but he’ll help propel himself to greater things.
What needs to be done to change things at Villa Park? Is Paul Lambert the right man to lead the team? Give us your thoughts @talkingbaws or comment below. Watch out for Nicky Boyle’s blog tomorrow.