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?

Domestic Competitions

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.

Transfers

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.

Wage Bill

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.

The Verdict

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.

Your Views

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.

Maradona_AVFC10: Transition.

Pl_Potato: A tunnel – dark times but with a light at the end of the tunnel.

FredFBailey: Onwards and upwards.

 

 

13 COMMENTS

  1. ‘We lack real quality compared to teams like Norwich and Southampton’. If this is indeed true then the board and manager should do the decent thing and resign. Why should two teams who have only been promoted recently have more quality than us??? Something is badly wrong at VP if this is the case.

  2. Its a long term thing so still hard to decide. I like the strategy but I remember at start of last season Mat Kendrick said if he avoids flirt with relegation then PL has done ok. He didnt manage that. So far I would say slightly disappointing but he has repaired and steadied the ship simply by not wasting too much cash and not losing his job which would cause more instability.

  3. Only time will tell. We have to give him time to work with this strategy. It is one that requires patience. Not every young, unproven player we take a chance on will turn good.

    In 12 months we’ve signed 18 players and sold/excluded 19 players. Only Benteke and Kozak have cost more than £4 million. Only El Ahmadi and Vlaar have any significant experience. It was never going to be a quick fix.

  4. just a bit confused tbh. Last seasons mantra of buying young and hungry(cheaper)seemed to have turned a corner an we were gaining a lot of admirers for our apparent blueprint. Then come the summer and a crop of players that didnt seem to fit into the plan. So what is our plan now. i am still right behind PL but just a bit confused over club policy. AV FOR LIFE

  5. This was never going to be an easy era following the dismissal of McLeish, no matter who took over the reins. A modern day Ron Saunders would have struggled to turn around the mess that was AVFC in the summer of 2012 following the parting of the ways with McLeish.

    Lambert clearly had/has a vision to halt the slump, arrest the decline, and turn the football club around, a club that was on its knees followng the O’Neill walk-out, the Houllier fiasco, and the McLeish appointment.

    That a lot of hard work still lays ahead is obvious to any Villan. Have we turned the corner yet? Have we even hit rock bottom? I dont know. One week I witness signs of encouragement, the next week I’m left disappointed and extremely concerned.

    That we lack quality in key areas surely cannot be disputed?

    Without the involvement of Christian Benteke this season, I have to admit that I’d fear the worst. I’m far from convinced that we have enough premier league quality elsewhere to avoid another serious fight to avoid the drop.

    Lambert needs, and deserves, more time to continue the rebuilding of our great club.

    Perhaps we all have to accept that things might get worse before they take a serious turn for the better?

  6. we will only know further into the season. jan – feb, if we are not looking behind our shoulder and playing good football we will be on track…. 13th and upward although not what we ideally want, for a job half done will do and sighns of progress will keep it all going… weve got enough to stay up, for PL we need progress, no progress and he will find it tough to stay in a job i think, his blessing is that we believe in him and like the way hes doing it, once he looses us theres no protection!! UTV!!!

  7. After the Arsenal game I was excited,after the Chelsea game fuming with the officials but still buoyant.we play Liverpool and Newcastle and it’s all reverted to last season’s nightmare I have supported the Villa since 92 through the highs lows and indifferent times…still cautious as far as PL and his tactics policies and substitutions and lateness of them…we now have competition for places but he needs to utilise the quality in the squad such as (excuse spelling! Lol)kovak hellinus and tonev and where is Gary Gardner?? He has the players just let them play!! Or we will get that sinking feeling again…utv vtid

  8. Since the departure of McLeish a lot has changed – some for the better, some, rather frustratingly, not. Lambert has proven that he can pick a player .. Tekkers, Lowton, Westwood and Guzan are all testimony to this. However, he seems to have a few blind spots: I would think one or two experienced players would help overall; and it is blindingly obvious that we have a big hole in the ACM/no. 10 role. If he had addressed these two areas in the last window then I would be confident that we could go on to a very good campaign. Having not addressed them, I am uncertain.

  9. I think Lambert’s done enough at the moment. time will tell if he’s really the man to take us forward but for now he’s earned his place. I believe he’s done everything right. he’s brought in young potential, scouted some great talent, lowered the wage bill, and cleared out some players that just don’t have a place at the club anymore. all that he’s failed at (in my opinion) is adding some genuine, world class talent into the current team. Benteke turned out to be this, and you could argue that Okore and maybe Westwood. other than that, we’re relying on what players could turn out to be, not what they are.

  10. I have a lot of time for Paul Lambert as a manager, his attitude and views on how the game should be played are to be respected.

    But, and it’s a big but, it appears that his policy of trying to carry out his vision, is restricted by finances. We know full well that is the case at Villa, as it was at Norwich.

    He seeks out young players who in his opinion, will make the grade, a little bit of a problem with that, is with the money he has at his disposal, they could be hit or miss. As has already been mentioned above, that has already happened, so I don’t need to repeat the players names.

    The transfer policy does not allow the purchase of young players who have already proved they are top quality, so would cost a bigger wedge of transfer cash.

    Another massive obstacle, is the knowledge that any players that make the grade will be cherry picked by the top clubs, it’s only a matter of time before we see Benteke playing alongside Ashley Young in a red shirt.

    So, what of his future at AVFC, I think we will see the same pattern we are now seeing, with lots of ups and downs, and the most we can hope for is maybe a cup win, if we don’t play Bradford again that is, and a mid table position.

    Just to add, I’m sure Randy wants success, because of the income that produces, I’m also sure that as long as we stay in the PL, and are making a profit, he will be just as happy.

    UTV!

  11. The sole truth is Lerner has made Villa a team with little quality fighting to remain s prem side. Lerner employees Lambert to cost cut and adhere to his business model. Lerner will destroy our club. We no longer challenge for mud table. Villa will be fortunate to remain in the prem league as linger as Lerner is in charge. What really annoys is all the misleading info about young players when in fact it’s about am owner who refuses to support the club. Less than 20 million spent in the summer despite getting rid of some big earners and the increase in tv money, why?

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