Although being nine minutes away from beating the team in second looks and sounds like a very positive result, in the context of both the performance and the last two months it can’t help but leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
Villa showed, at least in periods of the game, far more fight than has been on offer for the vast majority of the last 10 weeks or so. However, it’s sad to say that the quality was once again lacking, with one shot on target once again being the most damning statistic. Even so, Villa could very easily have come away with an unlikely 2-0 victory had Andi Weimann not, shortly before Nathaniel Clyne’s equaliser, skied a perfect pull-back in a manner which is rapidly becoming his trademark.
There are two names which seem to come up every week in this column, but Charles N’Zogbia and Carlos Sanchez again showed why they are arguably the club’s two most frustrating players at the moment. N’Zogbia, despite having being heralded by some in recent weeks as being one of Villa’s most technically gifted players, simply does not show it anywhere near enough to warrant a starting place in the side.
It’s understandable (to an extent) why Lambert is reluctant to throw Jack Grealish into the mix too often, but what is N’Zogbia currently offering the side that the youngster couldn’t? Does Lambert wait in the vain hope that the Frenchman finally shows something to make his selection worthwhile, or does he change things up and inject some excitement into the side by picking Grealish? I know what I think he should do, but I also know what he almost certainly will do.
Carlos Sanchez needs masses of work on his passing accuracy and ball retention, and still does not seem to have adapted to the pace of the league. He needs to do so quickly, as Villa cannot afford to be playing with a defensive midfielder who is off the pace. Given time, Sanchez will hopefully settle and become a key player for the club, but right now he is one of the main sources of our attacks breaking down.
Average attendance in Villa’s first six home league games of the season has fallen from 36,600 last season to just 31,490 so far this campaign. It could be argued that for a club hovering outside the relegation zone to still be able to attract an average of over 30,000 each week is actually pretty impressive. However, the gaps in the stands are becoming more and more obvious each week, and the age-old chant of “your ground’s too big for you” is increasingly poignant.
Monday night’s attendance of 25,311 was Villa’s lowest league crowd since December 18 1999, and meant that Villa Park was a shade below 60 per cent full. Yes the game was on a freezing Monday night, on TV, and following seven games without a win, but the club seems to be descending into an embarrassing state.
Looking at it another way, however, it’s surprising that so many people are still turning up given the standard of football that has been on show for what feels like a lifetime. Villa are English League football’s lowest scorers with six goals from 12 Premier League games, and the worst form team in the top flight with two points from the last possible 24.
Villa are also 20th out of 20 in the Premier League statistics for goals scored, shots, shots on target, shot conversion rate, shooting accuracy and chances created. Looking good, eh?
I feel I must clarify my own position here. I am currently based in Manchester and I count my blessings every week that I am not still based in Birmingham, as I know that if I were I wouldn’t be able to refrain from forking out £30+ every week to watch a game of Villa’s ‘football’ that would leave me feeling hollow and disillusioned until a better form of entertainment popped up – watching paint dry, perhaps.
Burnley away up next for Villa, with the Clarets having enjoyed something of a mini-revival in recent weeks (of course), and a home win at Turf Moor on Saturday would see them move a point ahead of Villa. An extension of Villa’s record-breaking run of abysmal form would be unacceptable but it is a mark of how far the club have fallen that a visit to promoted Burnley is now a game to strike fear into the heart.
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