Villa v Norwich preview: Will the players actually try to win this time?
5 points from 8 games is a damning statistic for any manager. Projected over the course of the season, that’s less than 25 points. It’s relegation form, plain and simple, and Villa are stuck in a rut because of it.
Of course, you can point to a multitude of factors – but as footballers themselves will tell you, nothing sinks a team faster than players not putting in 100%, and right now it seems that no matter what Lambert says, Villa just aren’t pulling in the right direction. The players on the pitch at Craven Cottage last weekend looked as if they’d rather be whittling away their wages playing roulette and blackjack at an online casino all week rather than play as a team and do their best for 90 minutes on the pitch.
Lambert was visibly annoyed with his players in last week’s defeat away to Fulham, but against former club Norwich City and playing at home, he has a decent chance of turning things around and putting a much needed win on the board.
Norwich themselves had a game to remember as Chris Hughton’s men beat Arsenal 1-0 at Carrow Road, taking Norwich to 6 points from 8 games. Not great, but then again Norwich are still expecting to survive this season, not aiming for a top-10 finish or dreaming of European glory in a few years’ time.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s early kickoff between Aston Villa and Norwich, both teams have struggled to defend and struggled to score (the goal differences sit at -7 and -11 respectively), so you can expect defensive mistakes, missed chances and a few goals.
Villa will have Bent starting up front (top scorer this season, problems and all) while Holt will be Norwich’s main go-to man.
Given the acrimonious way Lambert left Norwich for Villa, pundits have billed this as a grudge match for manager and former team, but Lambert more than anyone else is looking at the big picture. Crucially, he remains convinced that the team will turn their results around soon.
“There’s no time to mope. If you start feeling sorry for yourself then you get problems.
“Some of the football we are playing at the moment is pleasing, it’s not like we’re struggling all over the park, we’re playing some really decent football.
There are miles to go, country miles to go but we do need to start turning these performances into wins.”
The question is whether the players believe in themselves and in Lambert’s methods, and whether they can play together as a team. Some of Villa’s problems are understandable, with long-term injuries to Richard Dunne, Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker limiting his defensive options.
However, if Lambert can’t get his expensive forwards to score (and that too against Norwich), then there really are no excuses left.