With West Ham the next team to arrive in town, Aston Villa fans must be hopeful of walking away with three precious Premier League points, writes Matthew Turvey.
After all, given the fact Villa have an away-day at the Emirates and a visit from current Premier League champions Manchester City following the game against the Hammers, West Ham must be seen as the ‘easier’ chance to take points.
The bizarre thing about Villa is there is nothing at all to say the club couldn’t pull a win against bigger opposition out of the bag. Villa’s win against City at the Etihad, while in the cup rather than the league, illustrated the potential of the team to win games against even the very best teams.
The issue nowadays is Villa are dropping points all over the place. Whether one wants to look at the two goals and points conceded at The Hawthorns, the two goals conceded after leading 3-1 at Goodison Park, or the penalty call that robbed Villa of all the points at home against Southampton, there are points being lost regularly.
Paul Lambert has, in his own words, spoken recently of being “driven mental” by Villa’s inability to defend set-pieces under pressure. As fans, we too are being driven to our wits end with a sinking feeling setting in even when we are two clear goals ahead.
It doesn’t really come as any surprise to know the mood at the club is far from settled. After a challenging three seasons, Villa can’t say they have been free from some sort of issue for the whole period.
Between Martin O’Neill leaving just before the start of the 2010/11 season, Gerard Houllier ending up in hospital with a heart attack, the unpopular appointment of Alex McLeish, and the current frustrations of fans with Paul Lambert, the seas have been stormy.
Given the almost continuous tumult, it is very hard to pinpoint where the issue is at the club, simply because there has been so much change, and in such a short space of time, that it is difficult to say if a success or a failure is the work of a new man in charge, or the legacy another man left behind him.
What is a definite though, is that fans are unhappy. Given Villa’s current position just one place from the foot of the table, such emotions are far from surprising, though the club have been hovering closer to the wrong end of the Premier League for almost three seasons.
What is needed from the club to survive and, hopefully, progress? Much falls on the shoulders of Villa’s inexperienced squad, with young players both signed and inherited by Lambert forming the core of the current team. What the team need to do is be more cohesive, a plan far harder to accomplish when one considers the relentless pressure put on the team by opposition teams, fans, and the club’s own board.
Because after a January window that brought just two players to the club, neither of which were well known, many are looking at Randy Lerner and asking as to why he seems so incredibly apathetic about a club in turmoil.
Is it because Villa’s American owner simply doesn’t care anymore? Is it because he has, after investing money into the club, decided enough is enough? Or is it because he has faith in his manager, and believes he can survive with what he has?
All of these questions pose different reactions, though some seem more likely than others. While fans may be of the opinion that Lerner simply doesn’t care, it does seem a highly unlikely scenario, if only because the club’s silent owner is heavily connected to the club’s finances.
So has he just decided that enough is enough? That he simply isn’t rich enough to be able to contend at the levels that fans want?
This may well be a more plausible option, though this is far from conclusive. One thing is for certain is that the scale of foreign ownership, and the money that these owners have, is far larger now than it was when Lerner took control - back then Manchester City were still a small team, prior to their purchase by Sheikh Mansour.
So maybe it is faith in his current manager. Given that Lambert came to the club with high praise and an impressive CV, it does seem rather unlikely that he has become a bad manager overnight.
So will Villa’s team and manager manage to pull something out the bag come the weekend? Most fans will, at least, agree that the West Ham game offers the greatest chance of success from the next trio of challenges Villa face.
You can follow Matt Turvey’s regular opinions at his own site, Aston Villa Life at www.astonvillalife.com, via the site’s Twitter account @astonvillalife, or via his own Twitter account @MatthewSTurvey