Express & Star

Aston Villa Blog: Paul Lambert has been safe from criticism, but it can't last forever

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Two teams looking over their shoulders rarely creates the most aesthetically pleasing game, but can Aston Villa beat Fulham? Matt Turvey looks at what could be a defining game in the club's season.

This weekend, Aston Villa face off against a team deep in relegation trouble – Fulham. Whilst Villa fans are worried about their own survival, their club are most certainly in a better position in terms of where they are in the league compared to this weekend's rivals.

A bottom of the table clash doesn't exactly bode well in terms of watching quality football, though many Villa fans will argue that quality football has been something of a scarcity at Villa Park, with wins coming primarily from functionality rather than creativity.

In that sense, there's a growing feeling amongst the club's fans that things have to change. Yes, Paul Lambert can be praised for achieving what he has so far – survival on a comparatively cut down budget – but things can't continue like this forever, and the majority of fans will be judging the manager on next season's performance.

Until now, the manager has been safe from criticism because there's a widespread understanding that the cuts made needed to be enacted, but fans aren't infinitely impatient, and if success – of some kind – doesn't come around soon, there will be increasing support for the idea of changing manager.

The real problem, however, is that Villa's issue are more deep seated than some give credit. Yes, some of the wage issues are fixed now and, yes, there is the potential for increased spending come the summer, but I would be amazed if it means a massive change in the money given to the manager by Randy Lerner come May.

As fans know, Villa are governed by Financial Fair Play, and despite the best efforts of CEO Paul Faulkner, the turnover at the club has not massively changed, apart from as a result of the league wide increase in TV money generated via the Sky deal.

Therefore it would be improbable – if not impossible – for Villa to spend a fortune in the summer, no matter how much the fans want it, unless of course they choose to cash in on Christian Benteke.

Aston Villa's Christian Benteke scores his first goal against Norwich City

Many think that Villa's Belgian number 20 is a certainty for the exit come the summer – especially if he has a good World Cup with Belgium – but there's a strong argument to say that Benteke is far more valuable to Villa than any amount of money they could be given.

The reality is that Benteke could generate up £30m of revenue if he was to be sold, but how will that money be invested if it does occur? Will it be on two quality players who can augment the team? Or will Villa still be shopping in the bargain basement for additions at the average of £2-3m per player spent by Lambert?

How the summer money is invested – whether it contains the profits from Benteke or not – will be key to progress. What matter now for Villa though, is getting to safety – surely a game against the bottom side should be the tonic to provide Villa with the last push to get out of danger? We'll find out this weekend.

You can follow Matt Turvey's regular opinions at his own site, Aston Villa Life at, via the site's Twitter account @astonvillalife, or via his own Twitter account @mturvey_star.