On December 15 2012 Aston Villa beat Liverpool at Anfield 3-0. They played some wonderful football and scored some beautiful goals. It looked as if Villa were coming good, it was their 6th game without a loss in all competitions and Lambert’s investment in youth looked to be paying off.
Fast forward to now and things are at a potentially all time low for Villa. Beaten 8-0 at Chelsea, 4-0 by Spurs and 3-0 by Wigan in front of the home fans to round out the year brought a lot of concern heading into the new year. Getting knocked out of the League Cup by League 2 side Bradford over two legs is embarrassing to any Premier League side. They let a two goal lead slip at West Brom last week and today got knocked out of the FA Cup by Championship side Milwall. In fact this week they have been knocked out of two cup competitions, another poor week in a poor season where relegation is a very real possibility.
There have been some positives in an awful season, the biggest being the positive impact of Christian Benteke. The young Belgian striker has scored 7 goals in 20 games this season and is a bright spot in a miserable season.
There is much made of Paul Lambert’s youth policy in the Villa first team but there is enough experience in this side for this to not be a valid excuse for their failings this season. Shay Given,Richard Dunne, Alan Hutton, Stephen Ireland, Charles N’Zogbia, Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor have a lot of Premier League seasons between them and should be able to provide enough experience and leadership to the many young players at Villa Park. Darren Bent has been a big disappointment however but if Lambert could coax something out of him he could be a significant player in the relegation fight.
The story of Villa’s season is shown in their goals for and against stats. They have the second least potent attack with just 19 goals in 23 games, leading only bottom of the table PR by one goal. They have the worst defence, conceding 44 goals and as a result have the worst goal difference with -25. It would be somewhat positive if you were lying 17th in the table but doing OK in one of these categories as you would hope you could improve on the other but when you are at the bottom in both statistical categories the writing could be on the wall that you are just not good enough.
As mentioned there is a very youthful presence in this Aston Villa team. They will need the older players to step up in this relegation battle. They have a huge relegation six pointer with Newcastle at home on Tuesday night. After being dumped out of two cups this week a loss here would have serious ramifications on a team short on confidence and desperately battling relegation.
Villa are one of seven teams who have been in the Premier League since its inception. The others being Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton. If Villa don’t sort things out soon then this seven will become six.