To be honest I`d planned on writing a match report after the Forest friendly. It was going to be a jovial affair, making fun of a game which despite having a sub-ten thousand attendance was delayed by fifthteen minutes because of crowd congestion. Oh, this could have been us in a few years if the McRelegator had got his way last season – but we`ve sorted it out now and we`re on our way back up, aren`t we?
Well not quite. The performance and result left me rather disappointed. So much so, that I felt a match report for a pre-season friendly with such disappointment running through it was inappropriate. Besides, there was plenty of time to improve the squad and the game itself could have been treated as a high profile training session – that`s why we were rather slow at times. It was just technique training. Right? Right?
Well the players haven`t arrived but more on that later. Two things came into my head at Forest.
Firstly – I appreciate that after the dull, anti-football rubbish that McRelegator installed into the team the brief for the manager was to play a shorter passing, attacking game (why the board are briefing the manager on the style of play I don`t know – that should be left for the manager to decide depending on what he thinks will be successful) but I had hoped that we`d be playing a similar game to how Lambert had got Norwich playing – the wide, direct style which had caused problems for many teams last season and was exciting to watch.
What we had was an incredibly narrow, short passing game which was based upon possession as opposed to creating chances. Fair enough – if you`ve got the ball then your opposition aren`t going to score – but with this method of playing you need to not only play a lot of passes – but play the ball quickly as otherwise it descends into the short version of last season`s play – ‘tippy tappy` stuff where the opposition can read exactly what is going to happen next. Sadly, rather than this being an extended training session against Forest, it seems that this was taken into the West Ham game.
It`s all very well passing the ball about but if you aren`t creating chances it`s a waste of time. In the words of Paul Lambert himself – it`s unacceptable to wait until the 40th minute to have your first shot on goal.
Only playing one up front, just like last year made the problem worse. Darren Bent is a great finisher – he`s a striker that needs chances given to him – and he will put them away. The problem with one up front though is that because his contribution is purely trying to get into goalscoring positions as a team with one up front it`s like playing with ten men at times. For Bent to work successfully he needs someone up there with him.
The second realisation was that players who we had written off as rubbish last year were still rubbish. The hope that N`Zogbia might manage to beat his man, get a decent cross in or not run directly into the bloke ahead of him left me that day. He`s just not good enough.
Equally as crap is Stephen Ireland, who has had one good season in his whole career and that was playing alongside Robinho – not Emile Heskey or Fabian Delph who has been given more chances than Rik Waller has had hot dinners.
Yet both are currently being offered as our creative force to provide for Darren Bent. I`d be surprised if they`d created ten goals between them in the past two years.
At the end of the day, you could put Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho in joint management of the team – if you have players who are not good enough then you won`t achieve anything. If you then refuse to invest in the playing squad three summers running – the last after a particularly awful season in which the team deserved to be relegated from the league – then it`s going to be a struggle again.
So the board of Villa have a decision to make. Back when Lambert was appointed, we were told that lessons had been learnt, money was going to be invested into the team on young, hungry players and we would be making sure that a season like we`d just experienced was not going to be repeated.
We`ve spent much less than last summer, so far. We are still playing a style of play which doesn`t suit the players at the club and there are still massive holes in the team meaning two injuries to players and we are suffering an injury crisis calling upon the under 18s.
The players we`ve brought in aren`t exactly young either. El Ahmadi, Vlaar and free transfer Holman aren`t young. Lowton, at 23, isn`t even young in footballing terms. The board have not delivered for the manager or the supporters of the football club and have less than two weeks to do so. And given the mess they made of the Vlaar deal, where they couldn`t have made it any more clearer that we are now operating a ‘sell before buy` policy, I don`t hold much hope in the players both in number and quality the team needs in order for us not to have a repeat season from last year.
This time it`s even more important than just results and whether we stay in the big money league. This time it`s about trust. Last summer we had a number of bare-faced lies told to the supporters from the main figures at the club. Krulak, before his exile, told us McRelegator would be backed by Lerner. He wasn`t. Falkner told us we were going to appoint a manager who reflects the values of the club and was ‘best fit` for both the club and it`s supporters. We ended up with McRelegator.
I was willing to let that one go, if, it was rectified this summer. If Lambert isn`t backed in the next two weeks with money for some quality players then not only would the club be facing another season of struggle and relegation battling – but the supporters would have been lied to for the second season running.
And I won`t trust a single word from them again.
But we`ll deal with that if we need to in two weeks time.