Smell the Glove says:
If Villa fans were in any doubt as to the severity of our plight before Saturday afternoon`s game against Southampton, its result brought it into sharp relief.
The ignominy of yet another home defeat to a relegation-threatened rival, coupled with the familiar lacklustre and spiritless performance from Paul Lambert`s team, saw the club plumb new depths in our abysmal campaign so far.
Our capitulations to the likes of Wigan, Tottenham, the aberration at Stamford Bridge and our humiliating mauling in the league cup at Bradford City was tempered afterwards by the supposition that the club has reached its nadir; that surely we had reached rock bottom.
Conversely, each new defeat has heaped further misery on the long-suffering fans, whose fears could be allayed and doubts assuaged if they were to witness just a faint semblance of a cohesive and committed performance from their team. Instead, akin to a cruel mistress who spurns and mocks those who fall in love with her, Aston Villa Football Club excels in inflicting anguish upon her devotees.
This weekend`s descent into the league`s relegation zone saw the five other relegation candidates all pick up priceless points. Our ailing team have been written off as relegation certainties by the football press and pundits alike. With the worst goal difference in the league, an impotent goal threat, our confidence shot and a paltry 30 points from our last 38 league games, who could argue otherwise?
Opposing teams have our card marked before a ball has even been kicked. They exploit Villa`s obvious naivety, lack of physical presence and wreak havoc in our final third. Our own lack of cohesion and competence at this level has been plain to see, and not even the staunchest of Lambert`s fans could deny that his tactics and selection policy have been anything but dubious of late. Lambert`s lions have looked more like lambs to the slaughter.
Whether it is blind faith or delusion that has gripped our fanbase, the consensus appears to be that Paul Lambert should be afforded the time (and club financing) to stabilise the club and avert the catastrophe of relegation. This season`s reliance on youth and untried rookies has backfired spectacularly thus far. The paucity of league experience within our squad is glaringly obvious and needs to be remedied immediately.
When pushed for answers and explanations by the press, the brevity of Lambert`s response can at times be disconcerting. His flippant replies may hint at a dislike of the football press in general, but his prosaic musings on the exclusion of Darren Bent and more recently the massive relegation concerns of Villa fans, did little to dispel the notion that he`s struggling to find the solution to our problems.
The well-documented financial constraints imposed upon Lambert by owner Randy Lerner should in no way be ignored. Nor should the lack of foresight of Chief Executive Paul Faulkner, who at the end of last season said: ‘A disaster would have been getting relegated but this was too close for comfort’. The limited funds they afforded Lambert last summer suggests that they were willing to paper over the very obvious cracks of our threadbare squad.
Relinquishing the talents of quality players like Gareth Barry, James Milner, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing for purely financial reasons and without sourcing adequate replacements is not only foolish but incompetent too. It is self-inflicted damage committed by the very people whose remit is to keep our club stable and competitive.
If adequate funding is not forthcoming now, Lerner and Faulkner should both question their own aptitude for their respective roles. If this fine football club of ours is to sink further into the mire without any kind of fight, then they`ve only themselves to blame.
Last Chance Saloon for Lambert
Smell the Glove says: