This afternoon, the Villans face one of the Premier League’s most in-form sides in West Ham United. Paul Lambert’s record at the Boleyn Ground in the last two seasons does not inspire much confidence as we approach this fixture, having drawn there last season and having lost there two years ago. Today’s game is one that could see a substantial percentage of the Villa faithful getting on the manager’s back if the Lions don’t claw back some dignity but slump to their seventh successive loss.
When you’re losing, it seems as if everything goes against you. We only have to look at last week’s game against Tottenham Hotspur: in normal circumstances, Benteke would have stayed on the pitch and we wouldn’t have let in those soft, late goals. That is what frustration does to players. Momentum is everything in football and it is important that we start to find some from somewhere – and soon.
Last Sunday we got our first goal in fifty days, courtesy of Andreas Weimann. That in itself is an atrocious record but we must build on that goal and not let such problems haunt us again, although it won’t be easy with Christian Benteke being suspended. The manager has to change something if we are to start winning games again, as persisting with the same system is clearly not working.
The team selection needs to be shaken up a little now, as it has been pretty much the same team for the past six matches, with the only exceptions being the injuries to our defenders and Fabian Delph, which has seen Carlos Sanchez make his way into the first team. The likes of Jack Grealish, Leandro Bacuna, Joe Cole and Darren Bent deserve a chance to show what they can do in the team. It’s not as if they will be any worse than those they’ll replace!
The formation and tactics that Lambert has continually used need to change. 4-3-3 hasn’t been working at all; we were beaten by a QPR team that used the traditional 4-4-2 just under two weeks ago. We haven’t really got a footballing identity and that is evident when the players don’t know where they are meant to be when defending and, at times, attacking.
Utilising the experience of Lambert and Keane on the rare occasions when we are winning games is important too. Their coaching may leave a lot to be desired but they have won enough games and trophies and played under some of the game’s greatest managers to know how to inspire a team. Why then aren’t they doing that? Villa has a dressing room in despair. The manager and his staff need to comfort the players or go the opposite way and lay out their expectations for games explicitly.
This afternoon, I hope to see passion – and points. It’s time to stop the rot.