If we ignore the weekend’s disappointing defeat to Newcastle United and focus on the bigger picture, how would you describe Paul Lambert’s fifteen months in charge of Aston Villa – a success or a disaster?
When Alex McLeish was rightly dismissed in May 2012, I will hold my hands up and admit I was in favour of Paul Faulkner going all out to attract the then Norwich City manager to Villa Park. Despite a pretty dreadful start to his reign at the biggest club in Birmingham, the Scot managed to turn things around and guided Villa to a 15th place finish in the Premiership and managed to get his team to the semi-final of the League Cup.
Given the fact Villa had flirted with relegation for a few seasons before Lambert’s arrival, on paper his record doesn’t look too bad but the reality is that many had tipped the boys in claret and blue for relegation last season and even some of our own supporters were worried at times during the season.
The season included a embarrassing 8-0 defeat to Chelsea and a League Cup semi-final defeat to Bradford. We could so easily look at it in another way though, couldn’t we? Let’s say we had beaten Bradford and progressed to the final and maybe even gone on to lift the trophy at Wembley. What then? Would that have affected our pretty impressive form in the last third of the league season and meant we eventually did a Wigan and got relegated? Of course, none of us will ever really know the answers to either of those questions.
This season has seen one victory and three league defeats – but the one victory was one to behold: a fantastic 3-1 win over Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side on the opening weekend of the 2013-14 season. The unlucky defeats against both Chelsea and Liverpool left Villa fans with hope but, as has happened so often in recent seasons, we struggled against Newcastle at Villa Park due to our own errors.
Without doubt, the signing of Christian Benteke has proved to be the best bit of business Paul Lambert has done and arguably the best business in the 2012-13 season by any of the Premiership managers. A snip at just £7 million, the Belgian striker went on to score 23 goals in all competitions in his first season in England.
Ashley Westwood is another player who has come in and settled in the Premiership as if he has played there his whole career, with some comparing him to Manchester United’s Michael Carrick.
Matthew Lowton, Antonio Luna and Jores Okore are also believed to be successful transfers by the majority of the Villa faithful while there is still a small minority yet to be convinced.
On the other hand, there are a few players who Lambert has brought in who have been very hit and miss, including Joe Bennett and Karim El Ahmadi.
When Martin O’Neill left Villa Park in August 2010, Randy Lerner made it clear that the former Leicester manager had overspent on average players, handing them contracts that didn’t reflect their status in the squad. There is still an argument as to whose fault that was but that is for another time.
Gerrard Houllier and Alex McLeish came and went and were unable to either get the best out of the big earners or offload them. Up stepped Mr Lambert, who made it clear from the off that he didn’t care how much any player cost or how much his contract was worth.
Players like Stephen Ireland, Barry Bannan, Richard Dunne and a few others have been shown the door while others have been told to find new clubs.
I am very much up in the air with Paul Lambert. Let me explain to you why. This morning I tweeted on my personal Twitter account that I was unsure about Lambert and the majority stated I was being deluded and negative but I would ask is it really being negative to want more for my football club?
Paul Lambert has done a fantastic job in bringing the wage bill down and has found some really good, cheap players to bring to the club. However, I feel that, Westwood and Benteke aside, we lack real quality when you compare Villa to clubs like Norwich and Southampton.
I have been a season ticket holder for some time now and some of the football I have seen on show under Paul Lambert is simply a joy to behold. It’s fantastic to watch but, yes, there is another but, at times, his tactics and how late he leaves it to make his substitutions only make you question him.
Now, I am not saying that Paul Lambert’s Villa reign has been a disaster nor am I saying it’s been a resounding success. It has certainly been up and down and I would love nothing more than to see the former Celtic player help this club progress in the right direction and maybe one day to succeed again. Most have bought into his concept but, unless they see progress this season, I wonder how many Villa fans will still be singing from the same hymn sheet come the end of the season.
I asked on the Avillafan Twitter page for your views on Paul Lambert’s reign and here is some of the feedback I received:
Tebroc1991: Inconsistent but filled with promise.
issassin: Up and down… but mainly down.
Pl_Potato: A tunnel – dark times but with a light at the end of the tunnel.
FredFBailey: Onwards and upwards.