Aston Villa: Can one signing and one good half of football give Villa fans hope?
In a strange way, watching the second half against Newcastle was even more frustrating than going out of the League Cup against Bradford City. Why? Because now I believe we can stay up again.
That might sound ridiculous coming from a Villa fan, but let me explain. It had been so much easier watching Villa again play on the back foot during another woeful first half performance that saw Newcastle take an easy two goal lead into the break.
The display made it even easier to accept our fate - that we were well and truly doomed. The one positive to come out of that half was Charles N’Zogbia, who actually began to resemble the player we signed from Wigan Athletic, playing with confidence and skill behind the front two.
It’s amazing what a decent formation and proper plan can do to completely change a game. Why on earth manager Paul Lambert started with a 5-3-2 formation – I don’t care what anyone says, it’s never 3-5-2 – is anyone’s guess? Straight away the side were on the back foot, just as they were against Spurs, Wigan and Southampton, inviting wave after wave of attack.
It’s also clear Christian Benteke and Darren Bent cannot play together upfront, which is a real shame because we could do with those two striking up a partnership.
But Lambert then switches to a 4-3-3, brings on Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann – who has to be my player of the season – and suddenly Villa looked like the same side that beat Liverpool, narrowly lost to Manchester United and drew with Arsenal.
There was movement, passion, fight, headers, crosses, wingers, everything we’d be crying out for, for the last hundred games – or so it seems – but unfortunately we were unable to score any of the six (which I counted) good chances to get something out of the game.
That, I ultimately believe, might be the main area that relegates us – if we continue to create chances but not score we’re obviously going down, especially as our appalling goal difference is the equivalent to losing a point, which looks like it will be vital going in to the final few games of the season.
But there was a glimmer of hope and even Lambert was amazed the team was applauded off at the end – to all those who say Villa fans are fickle, all we want is to see a bit of fight!
With the huge gaps that have been appearing in midfield, the shakiness of the defence and a lack of firepower upfront – or a lack of anyone who can score tap-ins – fans have been screaming out for a few January signings.
I think chairman Randy Lerner made it pretty clear from the start that was not going to happen and Lambert seemed resigned to that fact – as many times as he says he believes his current squad is good enough, I don’t believe even he truly believes that.
We have signed French U21 defensive midfielder Yacouba Sylla. Now, it’s easy to sneer at yet another young, potentially promising signing, but the truth is that’s as good as we’re going to get. And if he’s as good as Benteke, who of course has his off days but has still been a quality signing, then maybe he could be the one player that manages to keep us up. No pressure, of course!
Out of all the positions we needed to strengthen, centre-midfield was the one that stood out the most. I’m not knocking players like Ashley Westwood or even Fabian Delph who have played well in recent weeks, but we look so weak through the middle that Sylla may give the team so much – especially if N’Zogbia could somehow keep his current form going.
All we need then is for Barry Bannan and Stephen Ireland to finally use their skill and touch for the good of the team, Brett Holman to channel his energy into something that actually helps the team, Karim El Ahmadi to start stopping the opposition breaking through the middle and for Marc Albrighton to re-find the promising form he displayed when he first broke on to the scene.
And who said football fans live in a dream world?
Article be James Fisher