20 Shades of Paul Lambert’s Disgrace against Bradford City

Finding 20 things wrong with a Villa performance nowadays is certainly easier than trying to find ‘Five Reasons to be Cheerful as a Villa Fan’ every week. If standing on the Holte in 1994, 3-1 down from a League Cup semi-final first leg against Tranmere Rovers would go onto be one of the most exhilarating experiences of my time supporting Villa, doing the same thing 19-years later against Bradford City, would go onto be the most dire.

In the previous rounds in the League Cup, Lambert’s team had over-performed compared to their league form. Yet, why did it suddenly all go wrong against Bradford? Certainly, Norwich and Manchester City away were harder scalps to take.

In short, it’s somewhat dumbfounding to see how naive Lambert seemed to be tactically against Bradford City on Tuesday night and how lacklustre and clueless the Villa players were.

The shocking thing and seemingly true to Lambert’s blind mantra of ‘we go again’ is the ills of Tuesday night were then repeated pretty much in an identical fashion on Friday night versus Millwall in the FA Cup.

Such is the anger and emptiness felt by supporters at the inept (and predictable) performance at Villa Park versus Bradford City, we just can’t let this one go. We don’t ‘go again’, until we get a few things off our chest first…


The shame of bad tactics

20 Things Wrong with What Happened in the Second Leg vs Bradford City


1. Why play just one out-and-out striker? Villa went into a home leg chasing a two goal deficit, so you’d think you’d play two  proper strikers. Instead, Lambert chooses a formation he played for the last away game, which is more suited to absorbing pressure and counter attacking.

2. Why no Weimann? Weimann was declared fit and in better health than ‘doubtful’ players Delph and Given, who both went onto to play. One of the only bright lights of Villa seasons has been the partnership of Benteke and Weimann – they score and also provide the assists for each other’s goals, and have scored the majority of Villa’s goals this season. Weimann came on, showed urgency and scored. Should have started.

3. What on earth do Bannan, Delph and Ireland think the role of the midfield is? To run the clock down? At times it was unbearable to watch, as their impulse was to turn around and start attacks by going backwards first. Bradford were afforded time to organize their defence and thus managed to keep Villa at arms left for pretty much most of the match, especially the key second half period.

4. Sideways, sideways, sideways and sideways they passed. No forward, decisive passing or midfielders driving through the Bradford midfield, which when supported by wider players, would have allowed Villa to attack in waves with runners, resulting in Bradford being stretched and pulled out of shape , which would  open up space and opportunities for Villa.

5. Stephen Ireland – cup semi-final and you don’t turn up. It was all set up for a big time performance. This was surely his last, last, last chance. It’s not gonna ever work out, is it? The Milner deal was a complete disaster. It was like selling one of your best players and future heart beat of the team, yet still paying his wages all this time and getting no reward on the pitch. Transfer fees are one thing, but I’m sure Ireland’s wage pretty much matched Milner’s. The way Ireland has earned his money this last couple of years is more jammy than someone winning the National Lottery.


Ireland assumes the Steve Sidwell position


6. Why didn’t they use the flanks? No width from Villa led to attacks simply bottle-necking on the edge of Bradford’s penalty box.

7. Very few crosses from the byline or from behind the defence. The majority of balls in were hopefully floated crosses taken from in front of the defence .

8. No early ball or element of surprise. If a hit-and-hope ball is the limit of your attacking endeavor, why not do it early? Rather than deliver the same ball after passing it sideways and across their defence for a minute or so.

9. Slow, considered and careful execution of the task at hand seemed to be ok at half-time. Yet, it only yielded one goal. This tempo only seemed to shift on the 89th minute, when it was too late.

10. No pace to the game in general. A Premiership tempo would have made life hard for Bradford to live with for 90 minutes.

11. When it was time to chase the game and go more gung-ho, Delph continually broke up the momentum. Taking two and three touches before passing sideways, instead of just one touch or passing first-time to keep up the momentum.

12. This perceived lack of urgency slowly deflated the home crowd who had been great throughout the first half of the game.

13. How can a team desperate for goals in the second half, despite Weimann’s 89 minute goal, not force Duke into a notable save during it? He should have been peppered and bombarded Duke.

14. Bent comes on for Bannan and Weimann for Bennett , so why didn’t Gabby and N’Zobia then play as more out-and-out wingers to provide width for a final bombardment?  Watching from the stands it was laughable seeing the four strikers stand around together on the edge of the box like headless chickens. Lambert admitted they were too narrow after the game, so why didn’t he do anything about it during it?

15. Defending corners…yes, that old chestnut. One of the most basic defensive disciplines in a football team’s defensive set up. Why have Villa not sorted this out with it being an embarrassing Achilles’ heel for over three seasons now. Coaches, Management and players get paid thousands a week, yet they can’t sort out the basics…

16. Bradford didn’t really have to break sweat. Where were the last-ditch blocks, goal-line clearances, miracle saves, ball hitting the bar and post, and goal mouth scrambles?

17. No Randy Lerner at the match. It’s a semi-final, you’d think he’d make an effort or at least make a statement to fans to wish them luck. This behind-the-scenes  of behavior doesn’t work in football.

18. Do it for Stan? There was plenty of reasons to inspire and motivate a performance.  Do it for the fans, FFS! The fans, who actually turned up on the night with more belief in their team, than the team had in themselves.

19. Villa had a £24 million man striker on the bench, Bradford had James Hanson, a striker who used to stack shelves in a supermarket. Their team was assembled for £7,500 and the young players at Villa are on approximately twice that amount a week. A team over 60 places below Villa in the league could shock them in a one-off game maybe, but over a two-legged contest? Let’s be frank, It’s nothing short of a disgrace to get knocked out.

20. Villa will never have a better chance to win a cup. You have a home tie against a League Two (division four) club and then the final, against Swansea, who have been one of the only teams Villa have had success against in the season (4 points).  What a wasted chance. A much-needed confidence booster of a Wembley appearance for the club to spur the players on in the league was lost. What adverse effects will it have on the player’s belief for survival now?


We had faith in Paul Lambert’s long-term approach to restoring Aston Villa’s fortunes, but after the tactical naivety shown against Bradford, you can’t blame us for having huge doubts now. UTV.


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  1. Can’t argue with much of that. I would say that the lack of guile in the final third isn’t something new – it is something that has plagued us for years. In fact, in recent times, the only two players I can think of that had the imagination to put the forwards through in that area are Merson and Carbone. Under MON, if we were unable to do anything down the wings, we had no other ideas.

    • CraigWright You’re right about MON. Many a frustrating match watching his team at home games. He basically built a team to play away from home. We definitely would benefit from having someone who was a bit of a trickster!

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