Two months ago, the football at Villa was, perhaps along with Sunderland, the least-attractive, most agricultural, depressing football in the league. The ultra-defensive counter attacking (in theory) football was producing an average of less than two shots on target a game. It really was atrocious, yet was still being 'masked' somewhat by the points collected in negative and lucky wins at Liverpool and Stoke.
Then, out of the blue, we had a change of style. Suddenly Villa were passing the ball and looking more attractive. We were praised for much-improved performances against Leicester and Man Utd. Then of course, things went wrong. An unlucky 1-0 defeat at Swansea and successive goalless home stalemates with a well-drilled Palace and Sunderland, and the criticism reigned down from the stands. The complaints now were that Villa were passing for the sake of it. Going nowhere with their possession. Yes, that was true. They were not used to such a game and they did need to start to move the ball forward, at a greater tempo. What nobody noticed though was that we were already starting to create more openings and have more shots on goal than before. NOT ENOUGH, but more.
So, against Bournemouth, Villa did start to move the ball around with more purpose and moreso in the right areas. Again, not enough, true. But the Villa v Bournemouth game was a better game than what had gone before and our style was seeming to be developing. The arrival of Gil showed at least that Lambert had finally woken up to the importance of 'quality' players going forward. The subsequent arrival of Sinclair won't have set off any fireworks but remember that he was excellent for Swansea, injecting pace, purpose and quality to their own 'passing' game, a few seasons ago. So, could Sinclair be the ideal man for our new system? If his head and application are right, yes he is. He'll only have himself to blame if he continues to waste his career.
So to Arsenal and Villa retained the ball, passing out of danger from the back and trying to inject the ball into better areas. But Arsenal were clinical. They had to play on the break on their own pitch, which had we held on, would have been a big story. Yet they picked us off - again and again. It's worth reminding you that Arsenal only had 13 shots to our 9. It was level on corners, Villa had slightly more of the ball BUT....they were clinical. What also didn't help was that Okore looked cumbersome for the first time, Sanchez gave the ball away all game, Cleverly was anonymous (yet again), Weimann looked like a headless chicken and Benteke looked lumbering and disinterested.
Now, Paul Lambert. What of him? Well, Stuart Pearce was sacked today at Forest after a run of 3 wins in 21. Lambert has now won 2 in 19. An inferior record to Pearce and incidentally, an inferior record to Alan Irvine at Albion and Ian Holloway at Palace, even to Lee Clarke at Blues - all gone, and all faring better now. So should Lambert have been sacked in November? Yes. Absolutely, yes. Should Lambert be sacked now? No.
Why? For a start, it's academic as he's going nowhere. Secondly, it's too late. Sacking managers in February rarely works. Thirdly, and most importantly, he has started to do things right. He's changed to a better style. He's starting to develop it into a more offensive 'passing' style. He's started to bring in the right type of player in Gil and Sinclair.
We are in a terrible run of goal-scoring form, yes, but I am as certain as I can be that we ARE moving in the right direction. It's February and we are well on the road to season's end. Let's not knock ourselves off course now. We may not ever get up.
Just been watching MOTD. Very interesting analysis. We just weren't moving forwards from midfield. Either players weren't moving into the right position, or, more often and more annoying, players were moving into useful positions and being ignored. Delph in particular didn't seem to know what to do. Cleverley gets criticised but Cleverley was actually doing a lot of good movement. Kilbane said that with the players we've got we should be playing far better. I think he's right. So is it the coaching, and has the time come to make the change?
I think there's a strong case for it. Yes, good managers can have long poor runs, but ours has been going on for nearly a year, bar the odd period, and that's an awful long time. From our win over Chelsea on March 15, we gained only 4 points out of the remaining 21 available that season. We had a good spell in our first 4 games of this season, 10 points from 12, a reasonable spell Novemberish 9 points from 15. BUT a miserable 3 points from the other 14 games. So over nearly a year we have just two good spells, of 4 and 5 matches, with the remaining 23 being dross. There comes a time when you have to say Stop, it has to change.
The only problem is, if Lambert goes, who comes in? Are there managers out there good enough to justify the change? I'd say there are. Personally I'd be on the phone to Laudrup; I think he'd do a good job here over the long term, he did a very good job at Swansea, and I think he'd have as good a chance of anybody of getting us to survive; he'd have the authority to have players doing things his way. Other folk will have their own ideas. But ...
... the real problem is, who would Lerner pick? I've no confidence at all in his ability to chose one of the able candidates available, and even less in doing it quickly enough. It's possible that having Tom Fox around might improve things. Or not.
So, changing even now has its attractions, strong attractions, but when you look at it in detail there are a lot of questions. Either way, I think we just have to hope...
Not sure about Lambert not going. In football a statement of confidence in the manager is often the kiss of death. And what Tom Fox said was hardly a statement of confidence.
Whether it's possible or not depends on the organised thinking within the club, now primarily Tom Fox, something we don't know. In the past Lerner's approach to appointing new managers was slow and badly thought out. To change a manager mid-term you need the opposite; before making the change you ought to have identified the replacement and actually have approached the replacement (although often it doesn't happen that way).
Lerner has shown in the past he will act if he feels sticking with the status quo won't deliver. He was quick enough to boot out Houllier even though Houllier/McAlister put a plan to him of McAlister remaining as manager and Houllier effectively being director of football (something loads better than going for McLeish in my view). I think Fox's view will have a lot of influence; if Fox thinks along the lines of the OP that we are going in the right direction and just need more time then Lambert will stay; if he thinks Lambert's coaching is a disaster then there's a good chance he'll go.
Have I given up? I've never been 100% pro Lambert, he wasn't my first choice for the job and some of the things he's done have been frustrating, like discarding Bent, but he's done enough and there have been enough positive signs to continue backing him. Last season could have been quite good, until it went pear-shaped. There have been some good signs since, like the players he's brought in on a limited budget, and the start to the season. But we have a huge problem and I've largely lost faith in him sorting it. The problem may simply be that without a head coach he's trying to do too much, but the bottom line is that it is down to him to sort it.
My biggest problem with all this is that I was pretty much laughing as the goals went it... I god t to the pub yesterday and instantly said to the Gooners in the pub that I needed a couple before kickoff to prepare me for the battering we would take.... not even I thought the econd half would go that way.
I'm not fooled by the possession stats, the knew exactly what they where doing... you can let other teams have the ball all they like when its in their own half.
Cleverly was headless, Delph was as bed as I've seen him, Sanchez looked lost, Benteke looked like he had Concrete in his boots, Gil thankfully looked decent, although his dead ball skills already seemed to have slumped to the level of the rest of the squad? Seriously we must coach the ability out of players to whip a ball in. Weimann all huff and puff, Okore had his poorest game. Clark was constantly out of position, Richardson.... well shouldn't be anywhere near the team,
I was just a joke of a performance... I for once Lambert wasn't nice about it, he was clearly annoyed, fingers crossed there's rockets up many peoples arses today and the start can be kick started!
i watched up until the first goal, and maybe the next ten minutes. At that point it was obvious what was going to happen, as we were playing the worst i had seen in a long time, which was very sad. We looked woefully short of confidence, in every area of the pitch, which is really worrying and will not be fixed easily, i am afraid. The only hope is that players that have been out of the side, or been signed can come in and get things going again. I think we need to change the team about to be honest, as it is obviously not working as it is, and if we keep going as we are, we WILL get relegated. Without a doubt.
The team should now be
Hutton Senderos Clark/Baker Cissohko
Gil Benteke Sinclair
I wouldn't leave Weimann out. He's works his socks off and he's a threat whenever he gets the chance; it's not his fault he's been played as a winger. After all, he did score our last goal. In fact, as a forward he's our biggest threat at the moment.
I'd bite the bullet and drop Benteke; at the moment he's not good enough. He looks awfully slow. I'd leave Sinclair on the bench for the moment and start Gabby and Weimann, and hope Gabby has his appetite back. Something like:
Gil Westwood Sanchez Delph
If there was a way I'd work Bacuna in there somewhere; at least he knows which direction attack is supposed to go in.
Not sure Senderos is fit yet. I'd keep Clark and Okore as centre-backs. And against Chelsea keep it tight and DEFEND. 0-0 would be perfect.
So interesting to see that the last bastion of Lambert support (ie. Here) has seemingly
fallen. If support for Lambert has gone from here, then that is the equivalent of the last soldiers leaving the fort. Lambert is surely now surrounded, with the oak gates straining under the weight of the assault on them. Only Lambert, Fox and Lerner remain, with a single pistol between them.
Yet, Lambert is going nowhere. Oh dear.
I hope, desperately hope, that my lack of faith is proved wrong. Paul, please, please show us it's wrong. There's enough poor teams below and around us that it wouldn't take much to get us away from danger. Just at the moment, to my great surprise, I can't see it happening.