In years gone by, a visit by the 17th place team would be an automatic 3 points for Aston Villa, and a chance to close the gap between themselves and a European spot.
Not any more, not by a long shot. The Villa project under Lambert is admirable for it’s courage and long-term vision, but not for it’s results. Football has changed. Partly it was because of Mourinho’s arrival that changed the culture of the league, where every defeat could cost you, and partly it’s because of the money involved in the game where success on the pitch makes a big difference on success off the pitch.
Lerner may have saved money on wages but the club has slid so far back in the process that it will take years – or a phenomenally good year – to bring them back to their old usual top-10 self.
As Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard recently said (while criticising the youth-only policy of his own club), the lack of experience at Villa is hurting the club and could end up stunting the growth of the most promising players.
Today Villa host Southampton, one place below and just a point behind. Villa’s home form has left no where for the team to hide – 2 wins in 10 games this season, 8 goals scored and 15 conceded. No wonder Southampton – emphatic 4-1 winners in the reverse fixture back in September – are looking to this game as their chance to climb back up the table.
Southampton’s away form isn’t great either; they’ve only won 1 of 9 games, scored 12 and conceded 24 in the process. But the stats (and Villa’s poor defensive form) point to at least one Southampton goal, so the only question is whether Villa can score 1, or maybe 2, to get anything out of the game.
We may be overly-pessimistic and Villa could thrash Southampton 3-0 or 4-1, but even a single goal scored would be sign of progress. Villa have it all to do, and they don’t seem capable of doing it (very often).
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